By Paul T. Choate
Dec. 21, 2012. Construction is ongoing along U.S. 321 in Blowing Rock and if you have been through there recently you may have noticed road crews beginning work on a new intersection for U.S. 321 and U.S. 321 Business/U.S. 221. Due to the widening project, the intersection is being forced to move slightly to the south.
“The reason the intersection is being relocated is due to the lake and the stream running parallel to U.S. 321,” explained Greg Brew, North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) roadway design engineer. “Based on environmental guidelines, we try to avoid or minimize impacts to natural resources.”
U.S. 321 Business/U.S. 221 runs parallel with Middle Fork Creek, which filters into Chetola Lake, at the location of the current intersection .
“Due to the widening of U.S. 321, we would have had to relocate U.S. 221 into the stream and lake area in order to keep the intersection at the current location,” Brew said. “In this case, the better option was to shift the U.S. 221 intersection to the south.”
Brew said he anticipates it will be approximately one-and-a-half to two years before the new intersection is fully in place. Once the new intersection is finished a portion of the old U.S. 321 Business/U.S. 221 will be converted into a “linear park” along Middle Fork Creek, according to Brew.
A parking lot will be built at the very start of the old intersection and the park area will be landscaped. A sidewalk will be put in place that will follow the route of the old U.S. 321 Business/U.S. 221 from the parking lot down to the dam at Chetola Lake.
Though the linear park will run parallel to the new widened U.S. 321, Brew said it is important to keep in mind that the sidewalk will be about 15 feet lower in elevation than the highway.
For more information about the U.S. 321 widening project, visit ncdot.gov/projects/blowingrock321 or call the project hotline at 828-964-3260.
Courtesy of Greg Brew