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U.S. 321 Widening Project in Blowing
Rock Detour

U.S. 321 Vehicular Detour Through
Blowing Rock

Project Fast Facts
  • Status: Projects Under Construction
  • County: Caldwell, Watauga
  • Type of Project: Widening
  • STIP Number: R-2237C
  • Cost: $66,438,147.43
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Description

The N.C. Department of Transportation plans to widen U.S. 321 from Blackberry Road (State Road 1500) in Caldwell County through Blowing Rock to the Shoppes on the Parkway shopping center near U.S. 221 in Watauga County. Construction began in early 2012, and the project is scheduled to be completed by June 30, 2016.

Improvements include additional through lanes, turning lanes at selected locations, and increasing sight distances by straightening curves to provide a safer road.

The project will be divided into two areas. Area I is the more commercial area north of the U.S. 321 Business intersection toward Boone. Area II is the more rural/residential area south of the U.S. 321 Business intersection toward Lenoir. The contractor will be allowed to work in both areas during the project. However, the contractor will be required to open all lanes to traffic in Area I by April 26, 2015.

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Project Overview and Purpose

Why is this action needed?

U.S. 321 is considered a Strategic Corridor, and this project will improve traffic flow and reduce congestion along U.S. 321 through Blowing Rock to Shoppes on the Parkway/Possum Hollow Road. Without the road improvements, the forecast traffic along this section of U.S. 321 will exceed the road’s capacity (and already does in some places) and high crash rates may continue. The number of crashes will likely rise as traffic volumes continue to rise. Improvements would increase sight distances by straightening curves, thereby providing a newer, safer road. The improvements also would provide wider lanes, separate lanes for drivers turning left at key locations and an additional through lane.

Project Facts

  • NCDOT worked at length with the Blowing Rock Town Council to develop a Memorandum of Understanding to lessen the effects of the project on the community and to build a road that tries to preserve the character of the town. The MOU addresses concerns such as project aesthetics, access, traffic flow and construction-related inconveniences.
  • NCDOT conducted meetings with the State Historic Preservation Office, Green Park Inn, Blowing Rock Country Club, and residents of the Green Park Historic District to develop a plan to mitigate the adverse effects the project may have on the district. This process, which gathered input from interested parties on the historic district mitigation plan, was conducted in compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. A Memorandum of Agreement between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the State Historic Preservation Office, and the NCDOT was finalized and signed by all agencies.
  • Prior to the start of construction, preliminary work is taking place on moving the utility lines out of the right of way. This work began on Dec. 5 and is expected to take eight weeks. The work will not affect electricity in the area.
  • During construction, the contractor will be allowed to close sections of U.S. 321 on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for blasting. In addition, the contractor will be allowed to close a small section of U.S. 321 in Area II either Monday or Wednesday nights from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. for blasting. Depending on the location of the closure, the following signed detours will be in place:
    • Area I: U.S. 321 Business through Blowing Rock to U.S. 221.
    • Area II: N.C. 18 to Wilkesboro to U.S. 421 North to Boone to U.S. 321 to Blowing Rock.
  • NCDOT worked at length with the Blowing Rock Town Council to develop a Memorandum of Understanding to lessen the effects of the project on the community and to build a road that tries to preserve the character of the town. The MOU addresses concerns such as project aesthetics, access, traffic flow and construction-related inconveniences.
  • NCDOT conducted meetings with the State Historic Preservation Office, Green Park Inn, Blowing Rock Country Club, and residents of the Green Park Historic District to develop a plan to mitigate the adverse effects the project may have on the district. This process, which gathered input from interested parties on the historic district mitigation plan, was conducted in compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. A Memorandum of Agreement between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the State Historic Preservation Office, and the NCDOT was finalized and signed by all agencies.
  • NCDOT issued the Record of Decision (ROD) for the project in December 2007. This completed the environmental studies for the project.
  • 41 retaining walls will be constructed to minimize impacts and reduce the project footprint. All retaining walls will receive some type of aesthetic treatment.
  • 335,000 cubic yards of excavation will take place on the project. This is equivalent to:
    • 67,661,290 gallons
    • 7,284,575 bushels
    • 9,045,000 cubic feet
    • Most full-sized pickup trucks can carry 1 cubic yard of stone or topsoil.
  • NCDOT, in coordination with the town, will develop and implement a landscaping plan after construction is finished.

Project Schedule

The project was originally awarded in December 2011 to Taylor & Murphy Construction Company Inc. of Asheville, and construction began in January 2012. However, Maymead, Inc. of Mountain City, Tenn. took over as prime contractor in March, 2013 when Taylor & Murphy declared bankruptcy. This change in contractor, as well as winter weather delays, pushed the completion date back from Oct. 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016. Check out the early project history for 1989-2007, as well as the project timeline.

Design Plans

A copy of the design plans, current as of October 2010, can be found at the links below.

Project Plans and Maps



Photos and Video


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Contact Information

Doug Eller, Resident Engineer
NCDOT Transportation Division 11

  • Email: Contact Us
  • Project Hotline: (828) 964-3260
  • Address: 160 Den-Mac Drive, Suite A, Boone, N.C. 28607

Resources for Local Property Owners

In many cases, it is inevitable that a certain amount of private property must be acquired. The displacement of homes and businesses is minimized to the extent practicable. The following brochures will answer questions about this process.