By Nathan Ham
Sunset Drive’s fresh new look in Blowing Rock received a lot of praise and positive reviews as the town gathered on Tuesday afternoon for a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the finished product.
“This project has needed to be done for many years. It’s done, it’s now a focal point of our town. It has taken us to a new level and hopefully, we will have more of this to come,” said Blowing Rock Mayor Charlie sellers. “This is the first street you come up where you have a view of the park. This accentuates the park, this accentuates the gazebo. Turning off of Valley Boulevard onto Sunset, you look up this street and it’s a world of difference. I’ve heard nothing but positive comments about how good it looks and how it means so much to the presentation of the town of Blowing Rock.
The mayor extended his gratitude to the contractors including Iron Mountain, Greene Construction and McGill engineering for the work that they did up and down the street and doing their best to “make things as bearable for the business owners as possible.”
Councilmember Virginia Powell pointed out that it was many of these workers that made sure to keep the area safe during construction periods.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize that they had their eyes on our kids and they were safe through this from April through November,” Powell said.
The revitalization project construction started in April of 2019 and saw the final layer of asphalt and paint be put down in November. The project work extended from Valley Boulevard to Main Street, and included replacement of existing water and sewer lines, minor drainage improvements, replacement of sidewalks, curbing and guttering, removal and placing of selected street trees and new roadway asphalt.
According to town manager Shane Fox, the project included 1,500 linear feet of new water lines and 1,200 linear feet of new sewer lines.
“The things you don’t see are probably the most important. These lines dated back 60 to 70 years, I think they were identified five years ago as being the most in need of replacement,” said Fox.
Councilman Albert Yount described the old road and area on Sunset Drive looking almost “third world” to him. Now with new pipes, new asphalt and sidewalk work, the area has a nice refreshing look to it.
The project should have a positive economic impact as well with many businesses on that street looking to bring added foot and vehicle traffic to their storefronts.
“I think it helps connect these merchants down here to Main Street. It’s amazing when you’re standing up here, visitors would come and look down here but they won’t walk down. I think this draws them down there and I think these businesses will definitely improve,” said Charles Hardin, the President/CEO of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce.
Overall, safety was the biggest compliment from folks at the ribbon-cutting event. Previously, the road had no center line and was much more narrow than it is now. Adding in the traffic impact of being right next to Blowing Rock School, of course, safety was going to be a major concern.
“One of the biggest improvements was that we were able to widen it and with the lines on it and the parking places and the centerline painted down through there, it makes the whole road look wider,” said town councilman Doug Matheson. “It makes the school buses feel a little safer when they’re passing vehicles, it helps the fire trucks when they’re passing vehicles having just a little more room. It is a huge improvement.”