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The Lin Cove Viaduct

The Lin Cove Viaduct is truly a modern marvel. As a matter of fact, the American Society of Civil Engineers awarded its prestigious “Civil Engineering Achievement of Merit” to the viaduct in 1984 even before it was opened to public traffic in September of 1987.

 

Had it not been for the protestations of Hugh Morton, an avid environmentalist and owner of Grandfather Mountain , there would have been no Lin Cove Viaduct. Mr. Morton fought tooth and nail against initial planning for the “missing link” of the

Blue Ridge Parkway

which would have involved the leveling of thousands of trees and the blasting of a tunnel through, not around the mountain. Mr. Morton as well as other opponents to this plan fought, lobbied and protested for years before a plan was settled upon to build the 1,243 foot long marvel now known as the Lin Cove Viaduct.

 

To call the viaduct a bridge is akin to calling the Mona Lisa a picture. This “S” shaped masterpiece of ingenuity is hands down, the most complex bridge project ever built.

 

Utilizing a process called “match casting”, the 153 segments of the bridge were actually pre-cast off site at an indoor facility a few miles away. Each individual segment was cast to fit the previously installed segment to a tolerance of 0.0001 feet and the accuracy of this process was controlled by computerized measurements.

 

To lessen the environmental impact of the project the individual concrete segments were carefully created using a blend of iron oxide in the casting process to insure that the project blended in with the color of the mountain itself. Weighing fifty tons each, the segments, once cast, were then hauled to the construction site and put into place by cranes. A little known yet amazing fact is that these segments were actually joined with a form of “super glue” and steel cables which were passed through them and then anchored to the deck of the bridge itself. No two segments were alike and only one segment in the entire viaduct is straight.

 

Meticulous planning went into the conservation of the environment surrounding this massive project in accordance with the concerns of environmentalists. The viaduct was actually built from top to bottom so as to do away with the need for a road to be hacked out of the forest. Considered extremely visionary for it’s time, this method also insured that only those trees beneath the bridge itself were cut down. So careful were the contractors that they even covered the rocks and trees surrounding the area so that none would be marred by the accidental spillage of the industrial strength “super glue” used to join the bridge segments.

 

A local man who worked on the project, spoke of the difficulty of working on the viaduct.

 

“Working on the side of that mountain at over 4,100 feet was not work for the faint of heart! Winter was the absolute worst. I was born and raised in Avery County and all of us were thankful for the jobs we had but some days were just brutal beyond anything I’d ever experienced before or since. No amount of warm clothing could protect us from the cold, snow and icy conditions. Nobody talked about “wind chill factors” in those days but I’ll bet on the coldest, windiest days on the viaduct, the wind chill would have been as low as -40 degrees or more below zero. I thought about quitting many a time but, there were few other jobs around back then for a guy with my skills so, I stuck it out.”

 

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held on September 11, 1987 and the “missing link” which was the Lin Cove Viaduct finally completed the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is a project which took 52 years to finish but, was certainly well worth the effort. Millions of visitors have enjoyed the complete parkway and its breathtaking views for 19 years now and will continue to do so.

No tour of the High Country area of North Carolina is complete without a visit to the Lin Cove Viaduct. Be sure and stop by the Lin Cove Visitors Center which is located at milepost 304.4 on the

Blue Ridge Parkway.