By Jesse Wood
Jan. 16, 2015. A tad bit of the historic Blowing Rock charm will be missing with the realignment of the entrance to Main Street occurring next week.
With the realignment at the intersection of U.S. 321 due to the widening project through Blowing Rock, this may be the last weekend that folks can enter Main Street adjacent to the Tanger Outlets.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) will close Main Street near Cliff Dwellers Inn to north of the entrance to Chetola Resort while crews shift traffic onto the new alignment.
The new intersection of Main Street and U.S. 321 will be located several hundred feet south of where the current stoplight and entrance is located, according to Caprice Cheek with the NCDOT.
This closure is weather permitting. Along with paving, Cheek said there is other “incidental work” planned such as striping and installation of streetlights for the realignment. She mentioned that “right now there is not a clear firm schedule” on when that entrance will become abandoned, but if the weather holds up, then all of the work could be finished by Wednesday.
The NCDOT noted that a detour sign will direct motorists to use Sunset Drive to enter downtown during the road closure.
“Once the road reopens, traffic will follow a new alignment. Motorists are encouraged to slow down, use caution and look out for any crews who may be working along the highway,” a release from the NCDOT states.
The Blowing Rock Chamber announced that Main Street will be reopened in time for the start of Winterfest, which begins on Thursday.
Asked about the look of new alignment, Blowing Rock Chamber Executive Director Charles Hardin said, “It will definitely be different.”
The soon-to-be abandoned entrance had a charm about it – at least before the widening project began and the hillside below U.S. 321 was cleared. Rhododendrons used to border both sides of the road, and there is also a nice waterfall fed by Chetola Lake that won’t be visible from drivers entering the new Main Street.
But there are plans in store for the abandoned entrance.
While noting that the “Welcome to Blowing Rock” sign that has become a photo op for tourists will stay, Hardin said the area will become a park featuring several parking spaces.
“It will be a little park dressed up with landscaping made to look very nice,” Hardin said.
He added that eventually this area will connect to the Middle Fork Greenway, and that there are plans to extend the Greenway past Chetola Resort to behind the Outback Steakhouse and Foggy Rock Eatery and Pub.
Hardin mentioned that there are plans to restore the rhododendron in the future. One concern, however, Hardin noted is the 17-foot-tall wall, which the walking path will be behind.
Described as a “real concern,” Hardin said that “may not look so hot.”
As for the new entrance to Main Street, it will be spruced up in the future and will be apart of the town’s gateway project that is in the town’s comprehensive plan.
As Town Manager Scott Fogleman said in August at the town’s annual State of the Town event, this project is intended to entice folks into venturing downtown and make folks driving by say, “Man, I gotta see what’s up there.”