DOT not recommending 540 ‘red route’ that would sweep through Garner

Proposed 540 loop with routes in color. (DOT)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The North Carolina Department of Transportation is dropping the controversial “red route” for the completion of I-540 when the DOT unveils “Detailed Study Alternative 2” as the preferred alternative the project to federal and state agency officials later this month.

The proposed route contains the orange, green (southern portion), mint and green (northern portion) corridor segments.

The DOT is not recommending the red route, which would have cut a swath through Garner. The DOT had estimated that 435 families would have to relocate if the red route were approved, and many in Garner rose up in opposition to the plan.

“It’s good for the people that have been waiting for so long. They couldn’t use their property, they couldn’t develop it, they couldn’t sell it. It’s good for those people on the original orange route,:” said Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams.

NCDOT has recommended the orange, green and mint segments because they:

  • Are formally supported by all local governments;
  • Minimize the number of relocations of homes and businesses;
  • Avoid impacts to the Swift Creek Watershed critical area (a source for Raleigh’s drinking water);
  • Avoid the Clemmons Educational State Forest;
  • Avoid impacts to historic resources; and
  • Minimally affect only one local park.

The DOT plans to announce the recommendation of the official preferred alternative this spring. Following that, the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) will conclude the environmental process, and NCDOT expects to award the construction contract in phases, starting in fiscal year 2017-2018. Phase one’s route is from the N.C. 55 Bypass to U.S. 401.

Diane Smith moved to Holly Springs two decades ago. She says the completion of 540 was a big selling point because she would be outside of Raleigh but have east access getting to Raleigh.

“Its been twenty years in the making, so I think its great for the economy and I think it will help this whole area develop,” Smith said.

Complete 540 will extend the Triangle Expressway from the N.C. 55 Bypass in Apex to the U.S. 64/U.S. 264 Bypass in Knightdale, completing the 540 Outer Loop around the greater Raleigh area. This will link the towns of Apex, Cary, Clayton, Garner, Fuquay-Varina, Holly Springs and Raleigh. By better connecting these towns and cities, the project is anticipated to ease existing and future ­­congestion on area roads, including Interstate 440, I-40, N.C. 42, N.C. 55 and Ten Ten Road.

The NCDOT has held public hearings on the proposed routes and they say the orange and green route would impact the least amount of people.

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