Shenandoah National Park
The road was built in three sections during the 1930s. Work first began on the central section, from Thornton Gap to Swift Run Gap, in July 1931. This stretch opened to long lines of motorists on Sept 15, 1934. The north section (Thornton Gap to Front Royal) opened two years later on Oct 1, 1936. The south section (Swift Run Gap to Jarman Gap), opened on Sept 29, 1939. A fourth segment (Jarman Gap to Rockfish Gap) was originally constructed as part of the Blue Ridge Parkway and transferred to Shenandoah National Park in 1961.
Roadway excavation and grading began after the Skyline planners surveyed the route, prepared plans, and acquired the right-of-way. Constructed by a method of side-hill cut and fill, the roadway lay on a shelf carved out of, or built onto the mountain-side. This technique was mastered in western mountain parks like Yellowstone National Park, and became a standard procedure for building roads. Rock and soil excavated in cuts were used to build up fill areas. Controlled blasting techniques minimized unsightly landscape scars and conserved stone for other uses in construction.
The roadway was constructed with a base of six to eight inches of crushed stone, supporting an asphalt surface, coated with a waterproof seal. Parking overlooks and entrance roads to the park's developed areas were treated in similar ways.
Native stone was used in all the masonry work along the drive, such as retaining walls, hand laid rock embankments, drop inlets, culvert head walls, gutters, tree wells, drinking fountains, and guard walls. The rock came from roadway excavations or carefully selected quarry sites within the park or just outside its boundaries.
Skyline Drive originally featured 18 inch high, stone guard walls along steep stretches of the roadway. In 1983, the Federal Lands Highway Program initiated a major rehabilitation of Skyline Drive, replacing original guard walls and failed culverts. The new, and substantially higher, guard walls are constructed of a concrete core faced with cut stone from the historic walls, laid in a random pattern with prominent mortar joints. Estimated rehabilitation costs exceeded $326,000 a mile. The cost of original stone guard walls averaged one dollar per linear foot.
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