A damaged section of the Blue Ridge Parkway crossing through Roanoke County could reopen within the next two weeks, local officials said Tuesday.
The 6-mile stretch, which also connects to Botetourt County, has been shut down for the past month after federal authorities flagged five points where soil settling was presenting a hazard.
The closing came as the busy fall season for the scenic roadway was fast approaching. October is usually one of the parkway’s busiest months. This section alone could normally expect to see about 64,000 visits during the 31-day period.
On Tuesday, during a board of supervisors meeting, Roanoke County Parks & Recreation Director Doug Blount said local leaders were recently advised that federal money for the road repairs has been found and authorities hope to see the parkway reopened within the next two weeks.
The repair work will be done along the leg between mileposts 106 and 112.
Getting the parkway back up and running has been a priority for local tourism officials. On Tuesday, Roanoke County joined other localities in taking up a resolution urging federal leaders to fund fixes for both the parkway and for the loop road on Roanoke Mountain.
The 4-mile loop road, which connects to the parkway near milepost 120, has been closed to cars for nearly a year after a storm set off mudslides that damaged the route.
The news that the parkway work is moving forward is excellent, Blount said, but there is no timeline for restoring the Roanoke Mountain road.
“These closures are symptomatic of a larger issue of deferred maintenance with a backlog of needs on the Blue Ridge Parkway totaling $508 million and $11.6 billion for the National Parks Service’s entire system,” he said.
Tuesday’s resolution, in addition to stressing the local work needed, urged Congress to pass the Restore Our Parks Act to create a reliable source of funding for maintenance to the nation’s federal parklands.
The resolution was unanimously adopted by the board of supervisors. Other localities across the region are also considering signing onto the statement.
In other actions, the county board granted a permit allowing WDBJ (Channel 7) to replace its broadcast tower on Poor Mountain.
The new tower is needed to meet FCC criteria and shift to a new frequency assigned to the local station. The new frequency is in effect now but WDBJ has been relying on a lower-power auxiliary transmitter while the plans for an updated tower went through the approval process.
No objections to the permit request were raised during a pair of public hearings held by the supervisors and the planning commission.
During a work session, the county board also reviewed the results of a comprehensive facilities assessment initiated earlier this year.
The study, which evaluated 113 buildings and other assets, is the first of its kind undertaken by Roanoke County. A Charlottesville-based team from consultants Cardno Principal guided the work.
The study found the county is doing a solid job of covering its maintenance needs but should consider stepping up its funding over time.
Local leaders said the conclusions will help guide future budget decisions. The contract with Cardno came with a software package that officials can use to update priorities and monitor cost estimates.
The facilities review didn’t include school properties as the school board recently undertook its own needs assessment.
The county plans to make the comprehensive review a regular exercise every few years.