ASHE COUNTY, N.C. — A major infrastructure project in the North Carolina mountains could impact tourism in several local counties.
The National Park Service started a three-year repaving project Monday on the Blue Ridge Parkway. They’ll start repaving just north of Doughton Park and end 75 miles later near Grandfather Mountain.
Channel 9′s Dave Faherty spoke with business owners along a 15-mile stretch of the parkway in Ashe County, who said the road near them closes in two weeks and will stay that way for a year.
“There’s going to be absolutely no traffic traveling northbound or southbound along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and we are about 500 feet from the parkway,” said Amanda Lavoie, who runs Park Vista Restaurant Inn with her husband.
“This is going to be tough,” Chris Lavoie said. “You know, not having that seasonal traffic, we don’t know what we’re going to do.”
Road signs have already been put up along the parkway saying sections will soon be closed. The National Park Service said it will stagger the closures to allow people to still visit and enjoy the parkway.
The $98 million rehabilitation project will not only include repaving, but will also address drainage issues, shoulders, guardrails, overlooks and signage.
Last year, there were more than 15 million visitors to the parkway. The National Park Service shared photos of problem areas.
The Blue Ridge Parkway has a sizeable economic impact on the mountains. In 2021, visitors spent an estimated $1.3 billion in gateway communities in North Carolina and Virginia.
As construction finishes in each area, it will shift to another area along the 75-mile stretch.
Faherty spoke with people who live along the parkway about the project.
“It’s going to be a long process, but we have to maintain the parkway for people to be able to enjoy it. So it’s a catch 22,” Cindy Long said.
“This Great American Outdoors Act investment in critical park infrastructure allows the parkway to continue serving the region as a driver of tourism for local economies for years to come,” park superintendent Tracy Swartout told Faherty.
But in the short term, businesses say the closure will hurt.
“We are trying to figure out what do we do?” Amanda Lavoie said. “We get a significant amount of traffic from the Blue Ridge Parkway, so this is going to drastically impact everything we are doing here.”
Up-to-date closures and detour maps will be available on the park’s website and at visitor centers.
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