Click Here to Play Audio

Driving the Colonial Parkway, you can almost believe it’s not 2023 out there beyond the trees and river banks out the window.

Built in the 1950s, it was designed to meander among primordial forests and keep the modern world out of view.

The parkway connects historic Jamestown Island with Colonial Williamsburg and the Revolutionary War battlefield at Yorktown, making up the sprawling Colonial National Historic Park.

Park facility manager Matt Henderson said it lets visitors explore the park without feeling like they’ve left the colonial era.

“You're almost in the bubble.”

That is, until you hit the pothole at Williamsburg Circle and get jolted back to 2023. 

The parkway hasn’t had a major repair since it opened in 1957 and the timeless ride is showing its age. 

Some of the concrete slabs have sunk into the wet soil below, causing dips. Standing water is an issue in spots, as is 66 years of wear and tear.

But a huge infusion of federal funding means an overhaul for much of the parkway will start later this summer. The Great American Outdoors Act was approved in 2020 and will ultimately put $9.5 billion into parks and green space improvements across the nation.

Colonial National Historic Park got $123 million to address the aging parkway.

Drainage systems will get upgrades to better handle heavy flows of water and be more environmentally friendly. Two bridges will be totally rebuilt and some sections will have 80% of the road surface replaced. 

But this isn’t the same as resurfacing a neighborhood street. The Colonial Parkway is on the National Register of Historic Places and it runs through an area where digging down a couple of feet could literally unearth a priceless piece of history.

Even the road surface is historic - an unusual brownish concrete aggregate surface that mimics a country road.

“The rock that was found here was from the 1930s and so we had to go source that and get as close as we could to the existing concrete,” Henderson said.

The parkway will close in sections starting this August. Most of the road will remain open during the work with detours in place to keep visitors and the daily local commuters on the right path.

The repairs are set to wrap up by summer 2026.