Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Smokies seeks comments on rehabilitation of Newfound Gap Road

The National Park Service (NPS) is proposing to rehabilitate 14.5 miles of Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441) on the Tennessee side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and to reconstruct many of its stone masonry guardwalls. The work area runs from the Park’s entrance near Gatlinburg to the North Carolina state line at Newfound Gap. Work is scheduled to begin in November 2010 and be completed in phases over the course of six years. The NPS is soliciting public comments in response to an Environmental Assessment (EA) which evaluates the potential resource and other impacts of that proposed action.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent, Dale Ditmanson said, “This action is needed to address the deterioration of the pavement, safety concerns, circulation and parking problems. In addition, the cut stone guardwalls, most of which were constructed about 70 years ago by the Civilian Conservation Corps, are deteriorating with age, impacting the historic character of Newfound Gap Road. All these factors have been increasing the park’s routine maintenance and intermittent repair costs as well as posing safety hazards.”

The EA examines two alternatives; no action and the NPS preferred alternative.

The preferred alternative consists of improving the safety of Newfound Gap Road, improving the condition of the road and associated features, and maintaining the integrity of Park resources. Specific activities under the proposed action, would include: rehabilitation of the road surface, rehabilitation of road shoulders where needed, reconstruction of settled sections of roadway to restore stability of embankment, rehabilitation of existing stone masonry guardwalls, reconstruction of guardwall sections to meet current crashworthiness criteria in areas with a demonstrated safety risk, and adding new guardwall and/or guardrail extensions or transitions in areas.

The EA is available, and comments may be submitted online at the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment website.

Comments must be received no later than April 21, 2010.

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