RALEIGH — Wake's Board of Commissioners put the symbolic weight of the county's 900,000 residents behind homeowners in unincorporated areas who don't want a proposed six-lane turnpike near them.
The homeowners say the toll road would cut through fields, endanger historic properties and shut off entrances to their subdivisions.
The seven-member panel unanimously resolved Monday to support a route planned since the 1990s for the proposed Triangle Expressway Southeast Extension, a toll road that will someday connect the Interstate 540 Outer Loop with U.S. 64/264 at Knightdale. The announcement that the Turnpike Authority is developing and considering three principal alternative routes has caused an uproar in places such as the Brookstone subdivision outside Fuquay-Varina.
"Where we live, we are not under anyone's planning jurisdiction," said Frances Matz, who came to the meeting Monday with about a dozen others protesting the possible use of an alternate route. "How are our voices weighed? We're just plain outnumbered. It's just plain math."
Matz appeared informally at last week's Board of Commissioners work session, introduced by Commissioner Lindy Brown. She spoke again Monday after officials of the Turnpike Authority presented their case: that the original "protected corridor" still enjoys a high degree of support but that the agency is required by federal law to look at and evaluate other reasonable routes.
During their presentation, Turnpike Authority officials said the protected corridor is a strong candidate because it has been shielded from residential and commercial development.
Picking a route
Residents who came to the meeting to get commissioners' support had thought for years that the proposed expressway would be built miles from them. However, the panel will play no direct role in deciding which option will be chosen. The route will be chosen in a three-part process:
Recommended route: The Turnpike Authority will recommend a route in a draft environmental impact study. Public hearings and reports from environmental agencies will follow.
Preferred route: The Federal Highway Administration will work with the Turnpike Authority in identifying a preferred route in a final environmental impact study.
Selected route: The Federal Highway Administration will make its choice known by issuing what is called a "record of decision."
All of this will take until 2013, officials say. But Matz and her neighbors Bill and Debra Ulm aren't taking anything for granted.
"I'm not against progress," Bill Ulm said. "But you've got to keep an eye on it. Until the final vote, nothing's certain."
People who have been dogging officials about the route are concerned that their careful research before buying in the area showed that the future highway would be miles away.
Matz said she mourns the possible fate of the Dr. Nathan Blalock House, a historic structure built in 1910 that lies in the path of one of the alternative routes.
On Monday, some residents sought and gained some level of reassurance from commissioners. Board member Joe Bryan said members of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization's transportation advisory committee are scheduled to take the matter up at a meeting Wednesday.
Bryan, the chairman of the committee, said the residents who are possibly in the path of the expressway are right to remain watchful.
"They are going through what they need to go through," he said.
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