Bills filed to block possible highway through Garner

Posted March 3, 2011 2:45 p.m. EST

— Lawmakers have filed companion bills to prevent state transportation officials from building an extension of the Triangle Expressway through Garner.

The North Carolina Turnpike Authority is selecting a path to complete N.C. Highway 540 in southeastern Wake County. A final decision isn't expected until late 2013.

The authority in November recommended that the so-called "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.

Federal transportation officials said, however, that the route must remain under consideration because an endangered species of mussels had been discovered in a creek along the original planned expansion area.

Sens. Richard Stevens and Dan Blue and Reps. Rosa Gill, Darren Jackson and Deborah Ross, whose districts include Garner, introduced legislation this week that would prohibit the red route from being used.

Senate Bill 165 and House Bill 225 stipulate that the Triangle Expressway’s southeast extension “shall not be located north of an existing protected corridor established by the Department of Transportation circa 1995, except in the area of Interstate 40 East.”

Garner pursued the legislation only after other avenues for getting the red route officially eliminated were closed, Town Manager Hardin Watkins said.

"The longer the route is studied, the greater the negative impact on investment and job creation in Garner,” Watkins said in a statement.

The southeast extension of N.C. 540 will 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.