Turnpike Authority can't rule out proposed 540 route

Posted January 20, 2011

— Federal law is keeping the state from eliminating two of several routes as potential paths for an extension of N.C. Highway 540 in southeastern Wake County.

Steve Dewitt, chief engineer for the North Carolina Turnpike Authority, said Thursday that the so-called red and pink routes could not be taken off the table yet because of an endangered species of mussels that was discovered in a creek along the original planned expansion area – the orange route.

The Turnpike Authority said in November it was recommending that the red route, which runs through Garner, not be used because of the adverse affect it would have on 13 neighborhoods, a church and the town’s primary industrial recruitment area.

“We do not ever expect to build the route,” Dewitt said. “We don’t support it because of the huge human impacts that it does provide. But we’ve got to go through a process, and we have to follow the fed law that dictates that we do what we do and that’s pretty much the bottom line.

Dewitt said planners will begin on Friday working with the town to find alternate routes.

The orange route wouldn’t have as much of an effect on homes and businesses, but it would go through streams where the dwarf wedge mussel live.

The southeast extension of N.C. 540 will extend the Triangle Expressway – currently under construction in southeast Wake County and part of northeast Johnston County – and complete the 540 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.


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  • Bendal1 Jan 21, 2011


    The rules don't allow for states to get rid of one group of endangered species just because another group would still exist somewhere else. That kind of thinking eventually results in endangered species losing habitat and numbers, since "there's still some over there". Once a PET (protected/endangered/threatened) species is found, the rules kick in and engineers and planners are forced into finding an alternative that avoids them and their habitat.

  • Bendal1 Jan 21, 2011


    There are different levels of Federal funding for highway projects. Interstates often have 90% Federal funding, but local roads can have as low as 50%, with other roads having percentages somewhere in between.

    Also, just because the 'plan' is to let NC 540's tolls lapse once the bonds are paid off, doesn't mean that will happen. Several toll roads in VA are keeping their tolls forever, to pay for maintenance and operation. Others are keeping the tolls to generate revenue that pays for other road construction.

    As for this route not being removed, DeWitt is right. Federal law requires an avoidance alternative be studied right up to the end of the study period, and that's what this route does; avoid the endangered species. DeWitt believes this route will never be built and I agree; I've seen this happen many times before. Civilians may not understand why this happens, but that's how it works.

  • Jim Britt Jan 21, 2011

    "Remember when the old belt line was the way to avoid having to sit in city traffic?" - As long as you didn't try to go through the Valley of Death (Crabtree) at 5 P.M. It didn't go all the way around either, which made it more of a strap than a belt.

    Lots of good info concreteman. Thanks.

  • chuck1947 Jan 21, 2011

    In response to smartalex

    Wilson county had the same problem with the drawf wedge mussle and we put a bounty out on them to qualified biologist and they were found all up and down the east coast, even in New England, so this is just a stalling tactic. Wilson Counties's method even made the Wall Street Journal. We finally got our larger resivor but it cost a couple of extra million dollars.

  • forgeteverything3428 Jan 21, 2011

    I-40 will be overcrowded by traffic again ~~~~~ during rush hour and road work

  • Luv2Kayak Jan 21, 2011

    Making 1/2 of 540 a toll road is so unjust. Better to increase the gas tax by a quarter of a cent locally so everyone who drives helps pay for the road and not have to build the infrastructure to collect the tolls. Even those who don't use 540 benefits by getting those who do off of the local roads.

  • FuckYouWRAL Jan 21, 2011

    "I do not think that anyone will force you to use the toll road if you do not want to." --sam62

    We already pay outrageous taxes in NC for the use of the roads -- so while no one would be forced to drive on the toll roads, we're still being forced to pay for them.

  • Smart Alex Jan 21, 2011

    I do not believe these are the last 4 dwarf wedge mussels in existence. There is probably a batch of them somewhere, laughing...who decided they were endangered anyway. No one really knows how many there are out there. You know, I'm sorry about the dodo bird, but I really just don't care if the dwarf wedge mussel becomes extinct.

  • Pseudonym Jan 21, 2011

    It will be NC's most expensive empty road, beating I-795 from Wilson to Goldsboro hands down.

  • Garnerwolf1 Jan 21, 2011

    The amazing thing is you can 'loop' Garner now! It's called I-40.