Bill would delay new NC highway construction

Posted June 28, 2016
Updated June 29, 2016

The state Department of Transportation considered a variety of corridors for the final route of the N.C. Highway 540 toll road across southern and southeastern Wake County, including the "red route" through the heart of Garner.

— The House Transportation Committee approved a bill Tuesday that would keep the Department of Transportation from creating any new maps for future highway plans until next summer.

The bill comes after the North Carolina Supreme Court said the state owes money to property owners whose land and property rights were affected by current Map Act restrictions.

Governing bodies can start the beginning phases of construction, such as environmental studies, but can not actually break ground on the pieces of privately owned land if it is not taken immediately through eminent domain.

At this point, the status of the controversial extension of Wake County’s N.C. Highway 540 loop is unknown. The DOT has purchased some of the land necessary to build the toll highway, and they can begin construction on those purchased areas. But they have not purchased all of the land necessary to complete the project, which includes privately owned property

Legislators are making four major changes with House Bill 959. The first keeps the DOT from creating any new maps for future highway plans until July 2017 and eliminates all current maps.

In this one-year period, the bill requires the DOT to study the Map Act process and come up with proposals to fix the issues the Supreme Court found.

"This is only the first step. We have a lot of landowners out there who potentially could pursue claims against the state for what was the law until it was recently declared unconstitutional," Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, said.

The Map Act allows the DOT and local governing bodies to map corridors for planned road work, and after those maps are filed, no new building permits or subdivisions can be approved for land in the corridor. This keeps property owners in the mapped corridors from building or adding on to their properties and often takes away their ability to sell their properties because it can not be developed.

The Map Act does allow for property owners in the map area to request an exception, and compensation is, in theory, also required.

The state Supreme Court’s decision and House Bill 959 attempt to clarify what that compensation looks like and where the compensation comes from.

The new bill puts those costs on the state’s Strategic Transportation Investments program, under the particular tier – statewide, regional or divisional – that created the corridor map and planned to fund the highway or transportation project.

House Bill 959 passed the House Transportation Committee and will go back to the Senate for further approval.


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