'Red route' bill resurfaces

Posted May 29, 2013
Updated May 30, 2013

— A bill that will clear the way for federal funding of the N.C. Highway 540 loop around Raleigh has emerged from negotiations between the House and Senate. 

House Bill 10 involves one potential route for the highway, known as the "red route," which would go through Garner. Town officials, economic developers and residents have vocally opposed the route, saying it would stifle new business growth. 

In 2011, opposition to the red route grew so loud that lawmakers blocked state transportation officials from even studying it. But that prohibition conflicts with federal highway funding rules and would trigger the government to cut off funding for the highway.

The pending bill repeals the prohibition on studying the route. Top lawmakers say the route will never be built, but it must be studied in order to draw down federal funding. 

In the Senate, lawmakers added language that dealt with how three other highway projects might be funded. Those other projects – the Mid-Currituck Bridge, the Garden Parkway in Gaston County and the Cape Fear Skyway – have been the subject of conflicts between the House and Senate.

House members refused to concur with those changes, and the measure was sent to a conference committee, a small group of negotiators representing the House and Senate. Those negotiators reported a compromise bill Wednesday. 

The compromise strips direct mention of the outside projects from the bill. However, it does require the legislature to pass Gov. Pat McCrory's plan for changing how transportation projects are funded before the red route can be studied. Indirectly, McCrory's transportation plan would funnel more funding to the three projects in question. 

House Bill 10 also adds more oversight of the red route study, requiring "the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee shall closely monitor the progress of the Southeast Extension of the Triangle Expressway Turnpike Project."

Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Wake, one of eight lawmakers who helped negotiate the compromise bill, said the extra legislative oversight should give residents in Garner assurance that lawmakers are keeping an eye on the study and would not allow the route to be built. 

"I'm against the repeal and have tried to stand up for Garner," Barefoot said, emphasizing that he would vote against the bill. Others, he said, have argued that, because the route would never be built, the state should just hurry up and do the study.  

The state Senate is likely to approve the measure on Thursday. The state House will take up the bill next Monday.


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  • Bendal1 May 30, 2013


    The PDF you link to shows the study area only for the remaining length of NC 540. It doesn't show anything else. The study area has to be so large in order to allow for shifts in alignment if something comes up during the environmental review phase. I-440 isn't even within the study area and certainly wouldn't meet the goal of the extension of NC 540, so stop with the conspiracy theories.

  • markjb33 May 30, 2013

    Error of fact: the Red Route would not be part of the "I-540 highway loop", but part of NC 540. - Bobber

    Agreed, I-540 is a good way to get around local traffic and is free to use. NC 540 is an abomination, they stole local roads, and built some new one's to create it, and now are charging excessively high tolls to use it.
    If Federal funds are going to be used to build it, it should be like I-540

  • dlnorri May 30, 2013

    The red route/endangered speicies is a ploy by the turnpike authority to get the whole SE extension canceled and "update" the existing roads (put all of the beltline/I-40 on the toll meter). See thier "Option" at http://www.ncdot.gov/projects/southeastextension/download/southeast_PI_ImproveExistingRoads.pdf

  • Bendal1 May 30, 2013


    While it's true that FHWA will require at least two alternatives be studied before they'll allow Federal money be allocated to a project, both alternatives have to be considered "reasonable and feasible". If this article is accurate and the quotes saying "we won't let the Red Route be built" are correct, FHWA may very well say "the Red Route is a strawman" and won't authorize money anyway.

    I've worked in DOT for well over 20 years and never seen politicians say "you can study this route but you can't choose it". I've also seen FHWA officials tell DOT that an alternative that has zero chance of being built cannot be included in a study just so a desired alternative will be selected. By passing this bill the legislature may force DOT to either create another viable route, or build the rest of NC 540 with no Federal funding at all.

  • jeffdewitt May 30, 2013

    We already know the Red Route is not the better choice, but the feds insist an alternative be studied.

    As I recall there is an environmental issue much like there was with the US 70 bypass around Clayton, that problem was worked out without moving the road just as it will be with NC 540, but sadly we have to play the feds games (and waste money) before we can do it.

  • ezLikeSundayMorning May 30, 2013

    If the study of the red route shows it to be the better choice, wouldn't the feds just cut off funding if we don't use it? Basically, for them to fund the project they want us to study multiple options to ensure they fund the best project.

    So to say the red route will never be built either means they will rig the study, scrap the whole thing if the red route is the best choice, or just build the red route. Splitting a town is just one negative in a study of options and came be mitigated with many under or overpass crossings.

  • sing2god May 30, 2013

    Just build the danged road already! The 64 bypass and 540 didn't kill Knightdale and 540 won't kill Garner.


    The Red route cuts through 13 subdivisions in a town of 24,000 folks. The Orange route has been on the books for over twenty years, and planning and development was put in place accordingly. I assume that you are referring to the Orange route, as only a, well...I can't think of a polite word to use...person would think that the Red route would not devestate Garner.

  • dmccall May 29, 2013

    Red route is so small-town thinking

  • Krimson May 29, 2013

    "lets see if I read this right in order to get money they have to do a study on a road that will never be built? How is this not illegal?"

    Glad to see you've been paying attention to this issue... GO back and read up on it, you'll soon answer your own questions as to the legality and the requirement...

  • jeffdewitt May 29, 2013

    Keep in mind even though the Red Route will NEVER be built it HAS to be studied to satisfy the Washington bureaucrats who can then free up some of our tax money to help fund building the road.

    And we really do need this road, anyone who thinks otherwise ought to try driving I-40 during rush hour.