By Nathan Ham
The much-anticipated sidewalk project to connect Main Street to Bass Lake and the Blue Ridge Parkway is just a few short weeks from being completed, according to both Mayor Charlie Sellers and Blowing Rock Town Manager Shane Fox.
“The sidewalk to Bass Lake has taken many years to reach its fruition. The DOT and the town have collaborated, and now it is something that should be completed in early summer, which further enhances the walkability of our town,” said Mayor Sellers. “We have had a lot of great things that have happened in the town in the last few years and more things to come.”
According to Fox, the cost of the project was an estimated $1.3 million. An E-FLAP (Eastern Federal Lands Access Program) Grant covered 80 percent of the cost, while Blowing Rock had to cover the other 20 percent.
“Essentially we got a grant that ties the walkway from town property to federal property, which is the Blue Ridge Parkway,” said Fox.
The project has been very complex in the early stages with three water lines, two sewer lines and a large DOT stormwater pipe under Highway 221 at the corner of Main Street where the Speckled Trout is located.
“The first few weeks of the project they focused on the stormwater needs around the intersection of 221,” said Fox. “The concrete work is going in, and the plan for this week is to get the curb and guttering down around the intersection out toward the parking area for Speckled Trout on 221. Friday of this week and Monday and Tuesday of next week the goal is to lay sidewalk down.”
Getting the major work done at the intersection first was important to limit as many traffic headaches as possible with more people generally coming into the High Country during late spring and summer than right now.
“Once they get out of that intersection which will hopefully be next week, they will start moving down 221 and the further out they get the better it will be for traffic and congestion,” added Fox.
Property easements were purchased by the NCDOT so businesses and residences that were losing land to the project were compensated for that loss.
Next up on the list will be the additions of signaled crosswalks that were approved last fall. The initial goal was to have those done this summer as well, but with the complexity of the intersections in Blowing Rock where the crosswalks are going to be located, Fox said it took longer to get approval from NCDOT. He expects final approval to come from them in the next two weeks.
“There will be signaled crosswalks at 221 at Bass Lake, 221 at Main street at Mellow Mushroom, Main Street and Sunset and Chestnut and Main Street near BRAHM (Blowing Rock Art and History Museum),” said Fox. “These are greatly needed. The sidewalk project will be complete early summer and hopefully then we will have bids in hand to get the crosswalks started and get them finished as soon as we can.”
Overall, the town manager says that there is a lot of excitement for getting this project completed.
“We are very thankful for the patience with the town. This Bass Lake Project has been talked about for probably six or seven years now and to see it actually happening is a big deal,” said Fox. “We are excited to connect the Blue Ridge Parkway to the town. That’s something that most towns would dream of and we’re just around the corner here from having that in the next couple of months. That’s going to provide an unbelievable resource and asset to the downtown area.”
Mayor Sellers said that the next major project for Blowing Rock would be replacing water and sewer infrastructure that is around 50 years old. After that is completed, Main Street will be repaved. Sellers said all of that would probably end up being a two-year project.