Bridge replacement to shut down popular stretch of Blue Ridge Parkway for 2 years

ASHE COUNTY, N.C. — A road project in the North Carolina mountains will shut down a popular stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway for nearly two years. A detour more than 10 miles long will reroute traffic around the multimillion dollar project in Ashe County.

The detour signs are already in place along the parkway. The road is still open but that is expected to change soon.

Already, work is underway on the $29 million project to replace the Laurel Fork Bridge. The historic bridge, which was built prior to World War II, needs to be replaced. The funding is coming from the Great American Outdoors Act.

Channel 9′s Dave Faherty climbed down underneath the bridge Monday to where he could see workers clearing trees below the bridge. He could also see some of the bridge’s rust and age.

“It is an important bridge but a necessary thing to change it. It’s a major development and if you look at that ravine, it’s deep,” said camper Julie Swain.

Faherty was told detour signs will be placed near both Highway 18 and Highway 16 so drivers can get around the area -- about a 10-mile stretch of the parkway.

The plan calls for only about a 1-mile stretch in the area that immediately surrounds the bridge to be closed. The small area is so that workers can still allow access to the heavily traveled area.

There will still be access to Doughton Park and The Bluffs Restaurant, north of the closure, but people may have to do a little more driving to get to those areas.

Some of the businesses nearby said they are trying to stay optimistic but are also nervous about how the road project will impact their bottom line.

“Just pack your car and come up. Grab your picnic basket, let us put fried chicken in it and hamburgers for you and then just go and explore the parkway,” said Sharon Pinney, at The Bluffs Restaurant.

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