View from Bridge 2 on the Foothills Parkway near the Blount/Sevier County lines. (Source: Kyle Grainger, WVLT)
TOWNSEND, Tenn. (WVLT) -- 70 years after congress approved building the parkway system across the country, the only one that's not finished is the Foothills Parkway here in Tennessee.
It's what National Park Service refers to as the "Missing Link" along the Foothills Parkway. Right now at about 30% complete, the parkway is missing bridges that connect areas together.
Bridge number 2, of 10 to be built, is now complete and park officials say this is a major step to getting the roadway opened.
The views from the parkway will grab your eyes, and that's one reason Charlie Johnson and others formed the Foothills Parkway Association 25 years ago.
"I tell everybody we elected a guy who was 26 years old of our association at the time, thinking he'd be the only one that would live long enough to see it completed," said Johnson. "I feel good and I feel like we actually had an impact which is also a wonderful feeling."
Even 25 years ago, a goal of the roadway was to help with traffic and help visitors get around.
“The Foothills Parkway provides a significant connection between a number of east Tennessee communities, two Congressional Districts, and three counties,” said Superintendent, Dale Ditmanson. “We are thankful to all of the government and tourism leaders who were able to join us for our celebration today and who have supported this important project for our Park.”
The Foothills Parkway was authorized by Congress in 1944 as a scenic parkway intended to provide picturesque viewing of the Great Smoky Mountains as well as disperse traffic from the heavily used transportation corridors in East Tennessee. Two sections of the Parkway are open extending from Chilhowee, TN to Walland, TN and from Cosby, TN to I-40 and have been open to the public since 1968. The 16 miles of road between Walland, TN and Wears Valley, TN includes “the missing link” and has been partially completed, but never open to the public to use as a true parkway.
NPS says they still need about $30 million to pave the existing road that was built decades ago and is now crumbling away.
Officials have set a goal of 2016 to have the entire 16 miles of roadway finished.