National Park Service begins steps to improve safety on Gatlinburg Spur

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GATLINBURG, Tenn (WATE) — The National Park Service is proposing safety improvements on the Gatlinburg Spur, with a goal to improve safety and traffic flow along the spur and connecting side roads. Nearly 50,000 cars drive the spur per day according to the National Park Service.

“The spur roadway connects Gatlinburg to Pigeon Forge,” said park spokesperson, Dana Soehn. “It provides one of the primary entrances to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In fact, for many visitors for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it’s their first welcome into the park experience.”

    However, sometimes traffic can get pretty bad, which is why employees of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park are trying to address the traffic, congestion and safety concerns.

    “I hate that traffic,” said Tootie Denny who was visiting from Kentucky. “I hate it, hate it, hate it.” She and her group of girlfriends visit Gatlinburg quite often. “Thirty years ago was the first time I ever came,” she added.

    All of them said that traffic is just part of the trip experience. “I’ve driven the Spur several times and I’ve been stuck in traffic but I always sit there and think, ‘Okay I know what’s on the other side of this traffic,'” said Denny’s friend Sharon Myers. “I know where I’m going once I get there, park my car, don’t have to get back in it. So the traffic is not that big of a deal.”

    For Denny and Myers, their drive wasn’t too bad on Friday, but they know it’s just a matter of time until people start to make the trip to Gatlinburg to see the leaves change.

    Dana Soehn said that with more people, comes more safety concerns, “On the weekends and during holiday periods the roadways can be extremely congestion and we’re really concerned about the safety of our motorists as they’re trying to make some of those turns at those intersections.”

      Park staff are asking for your help with coming up with a solution to the traffic problem. Some suggestions so far are constructing bridges to connect the Spur to side roads and adding a merge lane.

      Sharon Myers said her concern isn’t the road, but protecting the environment around it, “I’m afraid that if they start widening roads and stuff like that that they’re going to take away from the beauty that we have here.”

      Until changes can be made, Myers and her friend Tootie Denny said their advice to those who may get stuck in traffic on the Spur is to enjoy the ride. “If you have to be in line out there then so be it,” Denny laughed. “That’s what you’re here for, you’re here to relax. So don’t get road rage.”

      There are still plenty of steps the park has to go through before releasing a final plan. March 2022 is when the park intends to have the environmental assessment complete which is step five out of a ten-step process. You have until September 26 to get your comments in for review. You can do that here.

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