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Land at center of latest N.C. 540 extension controversy

Posted December 2, 2010 7:33 p.m. EST

— A 420-acre piece of undeveloped land, nine miles from downtown Raleigh, is at the center of a new controversy over the planned extension to the state’s first toll road.

The North Carolina Turnpike Authority held a public meeting Thursday evening with residents in southeast Wake County over a proposed route that would extend N.C. Highway 540 from Interstate 40 to the U.S. Highway 264 Bypass in Knightdale.

Residents in the so-called Tan Corridor don’t want the route, saying it would negatively affect a number of neighborhoods, including Pine Hollow, Willowbrook, Stoney Creek, Avalon and White Oak Plantation.

The route, added to several other proposed paths for the N.C. 540 Southeast Extension, runs almost adjacent to a previously laid out route, the Green Corridor, which would affect the Randleigh Farm property owned by the City of Raleigh and Wake County.

Both municipalities purchased the land in 2005 for the purpose of an environmentally friendly multi-use development.

Jennifer Harris, director of planning and environmental studies for the Turnpike Authority, says the Tan Corridor was added after Raleigh and Wake asked planners to look into an alternative route.

“They wanted us to look at an option that would minimize the impact of the project on their property,” Harris said.

The city acknowledges that it asked for an alternate route, but Wake County Community Services Manager Tim Maloney says it never did.

Maloney says the county has been inundated with complaints about the Tan Corridor and is backing off any support it might have had for the route if it’s at the expense of homeowners.

The Southeast Extension will extend the Triangle Expressway – currently under construction in southeast Wake County and part of northeast Johnston County – and complete the Raleigh Outer Loop.

The Turnpike Authority says it 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.