SYLVA — The views of the Pigeon River Gorge from the North Carolina Welcome Center on Interstate 40 are an impressive introduction to the state.
The views will almost be matched by a renovated building and refurbished rest stop when it reopens next summer.
A contractor for the N.C. Department of Transportation will start the renovations next week and will have eight months to complete the project once the eastbound rest area at mile marker 12 is closed at midnight on Friday.
“We take great pride in all of the rest areas across North Carolina and none of them are like this,” Division 14 roadside environmental engineer Keith Blazer said. “Every rest area undergoes a renovation every 20-25 years. We are excited for this opportunity to provide an updated and more aesthetically pleasing facility for the travelling public.”
The rest stop will be closed while Owle Construction, of Whittier, performs the renovations. New features will include updated lighting, improved plumbing, new floors, new walls and an updated information station.
Outside amenities will include fresh landscaping — including native flowers, shrubs and trees — repaved parking areas for cars and large trucks, and a fresh picnic area with vistas of the gorge and surrounding mountains.
Facilities near the state line are available to drivers at Exit 447 in Tennessee, then again at Exit 20 in North Carolina. The next NCDOT rest area on I-40 East is at mile marker 83 in McDowell County.