A $10 million federal transportation grant will help complete a 16-mile section of Foothills Parkway in Blount and Sevier counties.
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Tuesday the approval of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant application to fund the completion of Foothills Parkway.
The roadway will improve access to the Great Smoky Mountains to enhance tourism and economic development in East Tennessee, according to a release from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander.
“I grew up hiking, hunting and fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains, a national and Tennessee treasure,” Alexander said. “Completion of this 16-mile section of the Foothills Parkway will help the Smokies' more than nine million visitors from around the world experience the park more easily and have greater access to panoramic views of the mountains.”
Alexander said the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park in the country, has a "tremendous economic impact in East Tennessee."
GSMNP draws more than 10 million visitors per year, and a report from the National Park Service showed visitors spent $873,886,500 in the surrounding communities of the park.
Construction started on the Foothills Parkway in the 1960s. The on-again off-again project has repeatedly run into problems with federal funding in addition to immense physical obstacles.
GSMNP spokesperson Dana Soehn called a 1.6-mile stretch of the road – between the ridgetops of Wears Valley and Walland- the “missing link.”
Soehn said in June 2013 the “missing link” has challenging topography.
Congress authorized the Foothills Parkway in 1944, and it remains unfinished.