Traffic

Officials: Loss of 'red route' highway option could harm region

Posted March 10, 2011

— State transportation officials said Thursday that the southern portion of the planned N.C. Highway 540 loop around the Triangle will never be built if state lawmakers forbid them from considering a controversial route through Garner.

The state Senate voted unanimously Thursday to block the state Department of Transportation from considering the so-called "red route" of N.C. 540, a toll road also known as the Triangle Expressway.

The state House is expected to vote on the measure next week.

The North Carolina Turnpike Authority recommended in November that the red route not be used because of the adverse affect it would have on 13 neighborhoods, a church and the town’s primary industrial recruitment area.

Still, the DOT must continue to study the option, officials said, because the Army Corps of Engineers requires that at least two proposed routes be studied before it will issue an environmental permit to allow highway construction to begin.

"We're literally at the point that we either study the red route or the project stops," said Steve DeWitt, chief engineer for the Turnpike Authority.

Although the DOT has pledged to Garner officials that the highway wouldn't be built if federal highway officials select the red route for it, the town lobbied for a state law forbidding any consideration of the route. They said the threat of a highway coming through the middle of town was scaring off business and preventing people from buying and selling homes near the route.

DeWitt said he is sympathetic to Garner's situation, but he said he doesn't believe those local concerns should overshadow a regional project.

"The impacts of not having the rest of the outer loop in place will be very large and will be felt for generations to come," he said.

Without N.C. 540 in southern Wake County, traffic on U.S. Highway 70, U.S. Highway 401, Interstate 40 and secondary roads will become more congested in the coming years, he said.

Red route for N.C. 540 Officials: Loss of 'red route' highway option could harm region

Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod said the highway is too important to be delayed – or stopped.

"I think it is a little disappointing because they are missing the big picture," McLeod said of Garner.

Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams said he doesn't care about the regional implications as long as the town is spared the hardship created by the red route.

"If Garner's action kills the project, we'll have to live with that and maybe beg forgiveness," Williams said. "It's about Garner. I repeat myself, I repeat myself. We're going to stand up for Garner."

Mayor Dick Sears of nearby Holly Springs said he's confident the rest of N.C. 540 will eventually be built, and he is supporting Garner's hard line.

"I think we need to stay together on this," Sears said.

DeWitt said other possible routes for the highway aren't feasible for study because they all would result in similar environmental impacts as the DOT's preferred "orange route." An endangered species of mussels had been discovered in a creek along that route.

"I guess it's easy to say this, but some short-term pain here, long term, will help move the project forward," he said.

The southeast portion of N.C. 540 would extend the Triangle Expressway – currently under construction in southwest Wake County – and complete the loop highway around Raleigh. Construction could begin as early as 2018.

25 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Oldest First
View all
  • upmchris Mar 17, 2:05 p.m.

    we do need a hwy down here. we have been waiting for god knows how long. if anybody from fuquay varina wants to get to north raleigh to do any business or shopping it takes forever. our taxes helped build the north route. now let the folks up near 1-540 build our southern loop.

  • pedersenjp2002 Mar 15, 6:39 p.m.

    Has anybody ever seen this mussel they are talking about, and will the world end if it is harmed? I would bet that 99.99999% of Garner residences have never seen it or even heard about it until this controversy came up. Why in the heck do we need more roads anyway? NC is rated SECOND in the number of paved roads it has in the NATION! If you don't believe this, read Governor Perdue's statement on the back of the state map. About 10 years ago, NC was #1. Everywhere you go they are building roads. I guess the politicians need to keep the companies in business that 'contribute' to their campaign funds. Seriously, if you are a Garner resident, you need to continue to make your voice heard anyway you can. I know the people involved won't see these but at least we got some things off our chests. Could you even imagine if man was around millions of years ago when the dinos were dying out? We would have found a way to save them and they would be alive today to eat those pesky little

  • fatchanceimwrong Mar 11, 12:56 p.m.

    Build the orange route and let's have a Garner community mussel roast.

  • Chilidawg Mar 11, 12:11 p.m.

    Being that I work in concrete and don't live in Garner We should just pave the whole town. (Except where the mussells live of coarse)

  • Leonardo Mar 11, 11:31 a.m.

    Yea...how DARE the govmint encourage us to study multiple options. It should be left up to local government. Of course the local government is only going to listen to NIMBYs and ignore everyone else. And we'll end up with a highway that EVERYONE hates. But if it means the big bad govmint isn't involved, then isn't it worth it?

  • Leonardo Mar 11, 11:26 a.m.

    They don't need a highway down there anyway. Spend that money in NORTH Raleigh instead (which coincidentally is where I live!) Turn Capital Blvd into a limited-access highway north of 540.

  • Garnerwolf1 Mar 11, 11:18 a.m.

    "Anyone who's driven in the horrendous traffic around the Walmart/Kmart area knows Garner has NO concept of transportation issues!" by RaleighRob
    Really? Have you by chance driven in Cary, or North Raleigh, or around Crabtree?

  • Dark of the Moon Mar 11, 10:46 a.m.

    maybe not building this road will force people to rethink why they live in a certain region and drive to the exact opposite side of the county for work.

    corey3rd

    ^^^^^

    Simple.

    1)People change where they work all the time. They are not going to sell their house everytime they change where they work.

    2)Lots of people don't like the area where they work for living. Durham is an example.

    3)Many times people value living near things they do when OUTSIDE of work and put less value on being closer to work. Who wants to drive 30 minutes to things they like to do at night and on weekends?

    What city folks never seem to understand is not everyone likes the city and wants to be anywhere near it. Many of us value things OUTSIDE the city and have a dislike for the city itself.

    Charlton Dude

  • corey3rd Mar 11, 10:26 a.m.

    maybe not building this road will force people to rethink why they live in a certain region and drive to the exact opposite side of the county for work. Why does a guy who cleans the toilets at WalMart for $7 an hour need to spend $8 a day to drive 540 to North Raleigh on tolls and $20 a day in gas. Half his day's pay will be burned on the commute. The other half goes to taxes.

  • Dark of the Moon Mar 11, 10:22 a.m.

    If they have said they are not going to build the "red" route, why must money be spent studying it in the first place?

    peetk58

    ^^^^^^

    Again, because they are FORCED to by the GUBMINT and environmentalists. THIS is what we are talking about when we say TOO MUCH RED TAPE and let's LIMIT the size and scope of the GUBMINT.

    Charlton Dude

More...