Raleigh, N.C. — The pastor of a Raleigh church is taking on the North Carolina Turnpike Authority over a possible change in the planned route for the southern extension of Interstate 540.
Rev. Daniel Sanders leads Springfield Baptist Church on Auburn-Knightdale Road in Raleigh. The church owns 40 acres of property there, and plans to build a multi-purpose family center, a K-12 school and affordable housing for people in need, Sanders said.
"This would be such a setback, and this would just devastate us," he said.
The route, called the Red Corridor, would run directly through the church's property as well as the Town of Garner. The turnpike authority is considering new routes after an endangered species of mussels was discovered on the original proposed expansion area.
Members of the church's congregation are confident that Sanders will win this fight.
"I think Reverend Sanders is doing a great job as a leader of this church, and we will continue to follow suit," said Whitley Hartwell.
Sanders said it's his duty to protect church property from outside development.
"As a pastor of this church, I would be derelict if I took this thing too lightly," he said.
In the meantime, Sanders and his congregation are working with the Town of Garner to oppose the Red Corridor, and have sent petitions and letters to the turnpike authority.
"We are standing on faith," said congregant Vira Hogan. "We are believing and trusting in God that our home and our church will be left standing."
The Southeast Extension will extend the Triangle Expressway – currently under construction in southeast Wake County and part of northeast Johnston County – and complete the loop around Raleigh.
The Turnpike Authority expects to decide on a route by mid-2012, though the ultimate decision won't be made until the end of 2013.
Construction could begin as early as 2018.