US 321 Widening Project Continuing in Blowing Rock & the $1.2M Retaining Wall

Published Thursday, April 23, 2015 at 1:53 pm
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This natural rock wall, located across the street from the Green Park Inn, has cost about $1.2 million so far. Photos by Ken Ketchie

 

By Jesse Wood

Construction on the U.S. 321 widening project through Blowing Rock recently resumed after weather delays last week.

While there is still plenty of work to do as the project enters its fourth year, the blasting of rock is all but complete and the end is almost in sight. Kipp Turner, staff engineer with the contractor Maymead Inc., said that work between Blackberry Road and the Tanger Outlets should be completed by the summer of 2016.

Turner said that crews are looking to complete through town what they call the “right side” of the road – as if you are driving from Lenoir to Boone – this summer.

Once the sewer line installation, drainage, grading, asphalt and curb-and-gutter work is complete, Maymead Inc. will switch sides and start on the remainder of the underground utility work on the side that U.S. 321 is running now.

Along with the underground utility work, Turner said that the construction of dozens of retaining walls is a “major part” of this construction project. In all – from Blackberry Road to the Tanger Outlets – there are 40 retaining walls. But Maymead will concentrate and prioritize the 10 retaining walls that are located between Canyons Restaurant and Tanger Outlets, which Turner called the “town section.” These 10 walls should be completed in the fall.

One retaining wall of significance is the one across from the Green Park Inn. While most of the walls include a concrete face made to resemble rock, the retaining wall across from the historic inn is being constructed of natural rock.

Because of a memorandum of understanding between the N.C. Historic Preservation Office, the Town of Blowing Rock and the N.C. Department of Transportation, any existing natural rock wall removed – no matter how big or small – had to be replaced with another natural rock wall.

This particular wall is also located in a historic district. While the previous wall was “pretty small,” the new wall across from the Green Park Inn is 710-feet long. The height will vary but about 12 feet of wall will be exposed above the road elevation throughout most of the wall.

Because this wall is natural rock, it is more expensive than the other facial walls, Turner said. So far the current cost to date of this natural rock wall is $1.2 million.

“The wall is not complete so the costs are not finalized,” Turner said. “It will be slightly higher than that once the natural stone veneer is complete.

The entire widening project is estimated to cost $70 million.

Councilman Al Yount said he seemed impressed by the work Maymead has been doing. He said that understands the delays – whether it is the weather, infrastructure findings in an urban widening or the contractor change in 2013. He also has heard plenty of “complaining” from locals, visitors and businesses about this ongoing project the last few years.

“It just takes time, but we are experiencing some widening fatigue,” Yount said. “I am actually confident that they are doing the best that they can personally do.”

See more photos of the rock wall below:

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