Project Overview and Purpose
To improve traffic flow and reduce congestion along U.S. 321 in Caldwell and Watauga counties, the N.C. Department of Transportation is widening the highway from Blackberry Road through Blowing Rock to the Tanger Outlet Center/Possum Hollow Road.
Once complete, U.S. 321 – an important corridor linking the mountains to Charlotte and to national transportation networks – will be a multi-lane roadway from Charlotte to Boone.
Without these improvements, the forecasted traffic volume in the area will exceed the highway's capacity (and already does in some places). The number of crashes will likely rise along with the increase in traffic volume.
In addition to widening U.S. 321, improvements will increase sight distances by straightening curves, thereby providing a safer road.
Work began in January 2012 on the approximately 4-mile-long project, which runs from Blackberry Road in Caldwell County through Blowing Rock to the Tanger Outlet Center just north of U.S. 221/321 Business in Watauga County.
The project is divided into two areas:
- Area I, which, is the more commercial area from U.S. 321 Business/South Main Street intersection north toward Boone. (Although the road opened to traffic in July 2016, crews are still working in the area.)
- Area II, which is expected to be open by summer 2017, is the more rural area south of the U.S. 321 Business/South Main Street intersection toward Lenoir.
Improvements in Area I include widening U.S. 321 from two lanes to a divided four-lane highway by adding through lanes, turning lanes at selected locations and straightening curves to provide a safer road.
Improvements in Area II include the same widening but without a median.
Pedestrian Access Improvements
NCDOT is also building sidewalks along the northbound lanes from historic Green Park Inn to Tanger Outlets and along the southbound lanes from Tanger Outlets to U.S. 321 Business/South Main Street.
Forty-one retaining walls are also being built as a part of this project. NCDOT has worked with the town of Blowing Rock to determine appropriate aesthetic treatments for the walls.
Once construction is complete, NCDOT will work with the town to develop and implement a landscaping plan that will include features such as decorative street lights and brick pavers in portions of the median islands.
Although most blasting for this project is complete, there might still be occasions in which it is necessary once construction operations advance south of Green Park Inn.
Any blasting, which would occur during daylight hours, is expected to have traffic impacts less than 20 minutes.
Digital messaging signs in Blowing Rock, Lenoir and at other key locations are being used to help provide travel information. If road closures are needed, the following detours will be announced in advance:
Area II Detour
The following route will be used if road closures are required for blasting operations in Area II. (View map.)
From Lenoir, travel north on N.C. 18 to U.S. 421 in Wilkesboro. Take U.S. 421 to Boone, then take U.S. 221 to U.S. 321. Take U.S. 321 South to Blowing Rock.
From Blowing Rock, take U.S. 321 North to U.S. 221 in Boone. Take U.S. 421 to Wilksboro. Take N.C. 16 south to N.C. 18. Take N.C. 18 to Lenoir.
Motorists traveling specifically to locations in the Blowing Rock area should call the project information line at
(828) 964-3260 for more details.
Note: ALL THROUGH TRACTOR-TRAILER TRAFFIC is encouraged to use this detour during all road closure operations.
Most recent updates are listed first.
July 2016 – In its final four-lane pattern, U.S. 321 between U.S. 321 Business/South Main Street and the Tanger Outlet Center opened to traffic in July 2016. Some work remains in the area.
January 2015 – NCDOT completed all major expected blasting operations, but there might still be occasions in which blasting is necessary. Impacts to traffic would typically be minimal – no more than 20 minutes. If road closures are needed, detours would be announced in advance.
March 2013 – Maymead, Inc. of Mountain City, Tenn., took over as prime contractor after the original contractor, Taylor & Murphy, awarded the contract in December 2011, declared bankruptcy. This change, as well as winter weather delays, pushed back the contract completion date.
January 2012 – Contractor Taylor & Murphy, awarded the project contract in December 2011, begins construction.
December 2007 – NCDOT issued the Record of Decision for the project, indicating the completion of all environmental studies.
2004 – NCDOT worked with the Blowing Rock Town Council to develop a Memorandum of Understanding, with the purpose of lessening 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 might have on the district. This process, which gathered input from interested parties, 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.
Project News Releases
2011 Project Plan Sheets*
*Plan sheets may not accurately reflect current construction plans. For current construction plan information, call the project information line at (828) 964-3260.
Project Information Line
(828) 964-3260 (weekdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. except on holidays)
Division 11 Resident Engineer
Send a message
P.O. Box 1460
Boone, N.C. 28607
Resources for Local Property Owners
Although the N.C. Department of Transportation works to minimize the number of homes and businesses displaced by a road project, it is inevitable, in many cases, that a certain amount of private property is needed. The following information explains right of way acquisition and answers questions about the process.