'Red route' fix one vote away
Posted May 30, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — The impasse over the next leg of the N.C. Highway 540 loop could be over next week.
The state Senate voted 44-5 Thursday to approve changes that would break a federal logjam created by a 2011 law.
House Bill 10 would allow state transportation officials to study the so-called "red route," a potential corridor for the loop that cuts straight through the heart of Garner.
However, the bill also gives legislators the final say on where the road will go – and House and Senate leaders pledge the red route won't be an option.
The conflict came about because federal regulations require the state to at least study the route's potential environmental and economic impact. In 2011, concerned local officials and lawmakers successfully pushed for a law banning the state from considering or even studying that route.
Because the 2011 law put the state in violation of federal regulation, federal funding stopped, essentially bringing the N.C. 540 project to a grinding halt. House Bill 10 resolves the conflict and allows federal dollars to begin flowing again.
Some local lawmakers and officials oppose the fix. They say they're concerned federal officials will require the state to build the loop through Garner.
But supporters say it's up to the state to make the final decision on the highway's path. They promise lawmakers won't consider the red route. In the meantime, without federal funding, the N.C. 540 loop can't be completed.
House lawmakers approved the legislation in February, but the bill was caught up in a political battle between House and Senate leaders and spent weeks in limbo in a conference committee.
The compromise version emerged Wednesday with the controversial parts removed.
The measure still needs final House approval. That vote is expected Monday night.
It then goes to Gov. Pat McCrory.