Raleigh, N.C. — The plan to finish the N.C. Highway 540 outer loop around Raleigh is back on track after legal wrangling put the project on hold for two years.
North Carolina Department of Transportation officials said Monday the project, dubbed “Complete 540,” will resume immediately with a study and a series of public meetings to determine the best options for connecting the final section of the outer loop, south of the city of Raleigh, from Holly Springs to Knightdale.
Advocates say completing the loop will reduce congestion and offer faster access to Research Triangle Park, the Raleigh-Durham International Airport and other areas on Wake County’s western side. It would also help mobility for communities south and east of Raleigh.
“It’s a very important project for economic development and the ability to move people’s goods and services around that region,” NCDOT chief engineer Terry Gibson said.
The project was sidelined in 2011 over concerns about a potential route for the highway called the “red route,” which would go through Garner. Town officials, economic developers and residents opposed the route, saying it would stifle new business growth.
Opposition to the red route grew so loud that lawmakers blocked state transportation officials from even studying it. That prohibition put the state in violation of federal laws requiring an environmental impact study for routes under consideration. In turn, federal funding stopped, essentially bringing the project to a halt.
But lawmakers in May approved changes to allow the red route to be studied, although they vowed it would never be built.
State transportation Secretary Tony Tata said the department can now complete all the environmental studies needed to get the project going. It will take about a year to finish the studies, and no funding has been set aside yet.
Groundbreaking wouldn’t happen before 2018, officials said.
The public is invited to offer input at three public meetings:
4 to 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14
Wake Tech Community College
9101 Fayetteville Road
4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15
Barwell Road Community Center
3935 Barwell Road
6 to 9 p.m.Wednesday, Oct. 16
Holly Springs High School
5329 Cass Holt Road