Editorial: Completion of key part of Foothills Parkway cause for celebration

Bridge to somewhere
Jun. 27, 2013 @ 11:32 PM

You wouldn’t think the completion of a stretch of road nobody can drive on yet would be cause for celebration, but this is no ordinary roadway. The most expensive piece of the Foothills Parkway between Walland and Wears Valley is now complete. Just don’t expect to drive on it for quite some time.

The 800-foot, $25.7 million section known as Bridge 2 is part of a project to connect 16 miles of road between Walland and Wears Valley. Structural fill issues and erosion problems caused the project to be suspended in 1989, leaving an unfinished segment of 1.65 miles, known as the “missing link.”

To date, four bridges and two road segments have been completed at a total cost of $46.2 million. The remaining sections were combined under one contract and are expected to be complete by 2016.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday to commemorate the completion of Bridge 2, Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson explained the significance of the project. “Foothills Parkway is and will be a significant connection between a number of East Tennessee communities, two congressional districts and three counties.” Ditmanson said the parkway was designed to provide a scenic view of the national park while also relieving traffic congestion in the surrounding communities.

“The Foothills (Parkway) idea was conceived to provide that scenic view of the park while looking into the park from the outside,” Ditmanson said. “Thoughtful people realized that this idea of a road looking into the park would preserve the park itself.”

Once you get the most expensive chunk out of the way, the rest looks relatively easy. It certainly will be less costly. So while we have a $25 million road section that can’t be used, we at least have the biggest, most challenging part of the project finished and ready for its links. That is a good thing indeed.