$75 million to improve Roanoke corridor of Blue Ridge Parkway

ROANOKE, Va. – It’s easy to see why the Blue Ridge Parkway was the most popular national park last year, with 16.7 million visitors.

Sean Gess is one of them, drawn to its beautiful views and natural resources. He took the week off to travel the Parkway all the way from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

“It’s just nice to get out and be able to explore. I’m actually a biologist and I love getting to see the different forest systems that occur along the Blue Ridge Parkway. And it’s been nice kind of seeing the different trees and forest communities,” said Gess.

But after nearly 90 years, all that Parkway love is starting to show.

There’s been some places where there’s potholes and closures and it would be nice just to be able to continuously drive and view,” said Gess. “Some of the overlooks, too, are overgrown. I don’t know if the money would go towards kind of restoring those areas as well. But yeah that’d be certainly a nice thing.”

Thanks to $75 million in Legacy Restoration Funding from the Great American Outdoors Act, 24 miles of the Parkway will be repaved and rehabilitated from milepost 97 at Blackhorse to milepost 121 near US 220 in Roanoke.

The project includes slope stabilization, road resurfacing, repairing shoulders, guardrails, overlooks and more. The repairs mean there will be partial closures starting this year, with full closures in 2025 and 2026. The hope is that these short-term inconveniences will preserve the Parkway in the long term.

“If you’re coming from out of town and going to explore and you don’t know of a closure before you get there, it can be a bit frustrating. But overall, I think as long as it’s communicated, it’s worth the work,” said Gess.

Kathryn Lucas is the director of public relations with Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge. She said the investment in the Parkway will be an investment in the region.

“We’re fortunate in that we have a lot of great hotels, restaurants and attractions located just a few miles off the Parkway. You don’t have to go very far,” said Lucas. “This is a really great home base for people who are making a road trip out of the Parkway. They’ll come, stop off, spend the night here, maybe see a show, grab some dinner. So, the Parkway is very crucial to our tourism and, as a result, economic development.”

A Blue Ridge Parkway spokesperson told 10 News the Roanoke Mountain closure is not part of this project. Despite the upcoming closures, people will still be able to access destinations like Explore Park.

Once those detours are mapped out, they’ll be posted on the Blue Ridge Parkway’s website.

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You can watch Lindsey during Virginia Today every weekend or as a reporter during the week!

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