Blue Ridge Parkway closure at the Linn Cove Viaduct, the most visited and recognized stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway, is scheduled to close for three months beginning March 1 according to the National Park Service. The area, which includes trail areas below the viaduct, will also be off limits to cyclist and hikers. Park officials said the closure is necessary to allow for resurfacing roads and bridge repairs, adding that the seven-mile stretch will reopen in time for Memorial Day weekend. According to reports from various media outlets, crews will replace asphalt pavement, joints and water-proofing membranes on the bridge as well as repairing support structures, curbing, railing and essential drainage features.
Located 18 miles southwest of Blowing Rock, N.C., the viaduct is one of the parkway’s most popular tourist draws and was the last part of the 469-mile road to be completed. Designated a national civil engineering landmark by the America Society of Civil Engineers, the 1,234-foot viaduct, consisting of 153 segments that weigh in at 50 tons each, was built at a cost of some $10 million.
It was a project that almost did not happen. According to accounts, the original plans for that stretch of the roadway included carving out parts of Grandfather Mountain. The plan sparked an immediate and intense opposition, especially by Hugh Morton who had inherited Grandfather Mountain from his own grandfather, Hugh MacRae. Preserving the mountain was a primary focus for Morton (who died in 2006) prompting him to donate easement for some 3,000 acres to the The Nature Conservancy whose focus is preserving land and water worldwide. Additional acres and easement were later sold to the conservancy. A compromise route, negotiated by Gov. Dan Moore, partnered the National Park Service’s landscape architects and Federal Highway Administration engineers who proposed that the road should be elevated wherever possible to eliminate cutting into the historic landscape. According to Park Service officials, the result has been called “the most complicated concrete bridge ever built.” The viaduct’s sweeping ‘S’ curve appears to hover in mid-air offering spectacular mountain and valley views and is often referred to as “a ride in the clouds.”
Although the viaduct is a direct route to Grandfather Mountain and its state park hiking trails, Frank Ruggerio of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation was philosophical about the closure. Ruggerio said that he was sad that people will not enjoy the whole high country experience this spring, but agreed that it was a necessary step to make the repairs.
Grandfather Mountain and the state park is still accessible from U.S. 221.