Proposed route for toll road alarms Garner residents

Posted October 20, 2010 5:39 p.m. EDT
Updated October 20, 2010 6:59 p.m. EDT

— As the state lays plans for completing the Interstate 540 loop around Wake County, some of the proposed routes for the highway have alarmed local residents.

The state Department of Transportation has outlined nine alternatives for the southern arc of the highway, which would connect N.C. Highway 55 in Holly Springs to U.S. Highway 64/264 Bypass in Knightdale.

One of the proposed routes would cut through the Brookwood neighborhood in Garner, which has residents up in arms.

"It upsets a lot of people. There's a lot of reasons why I'm upset," said Bruce Wittman, who has lived in Brookwood for more than 20 years.

"I don't know if in Wake County there is another piece of land like this," said his wife, Martha Wittman.

The Wittmans posted a sign in their front yard to alert neighbors to the DOT proposal, and they left a stack of fliers for people to voice their concerns.

"They're going to cut the town in half," said Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams, who is livid about the proposed I-540 route.

Brookwood resident Brenda Sumner said the highway would go right through her house if DOT follows the controversial path.

"It would be total devastation if we had to move," Sumner said.

DOT officials said one route for I-540 has been set aside for decades, but changes in federal law required the state to consider alternatives.

"While we're hearing a lot of public outcry, we expected to hear a lot of public comments about where we are," said Steve DeWitt, chief engineer for the North Carolina Turnpike Authority, which plans to operate the southern section of the highway as a toll road.

The Garner Town Council and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization have both endorsed the original route for the highway.

A final decision on the route might not come for two or three years.

In the meantime, Sumner said she hopes Brookwood's concerns will be heard.

"The only thing I know to do is just pray and get the word out that we definitely do not want the expressway to come through our neighborhood," she said.