Garner's collective sigh of relief was premature.
N.C. Turnpike Authority officials said Thursday that the Triangle Expressway Red and Pink routes that cut through Garner are still on the table for now -- despite the release a day earlier of a map showing the removal of the unpopular highway route.
The Triangle Expressway, when complete, will provide I-40 travelers a southern bypass around Raleigh. .
"Some information went out a little prematurely," a visibly disappointed Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams said, hours after he was planning a victory party in the town's campaign against the highway. "I was on a high last night."
Turnpike Authority chief engineer Steve DeWitt said federal environmental regulators weren't ready to ditch the option in favor of theOrange route south of town, where development has been restricted for decades.
"The dwarf wedge mussel continues to be an issue," DeWitt said, referring to the endangered species that prompted the Red route. "We have to find a balance between the environmental impacts and the human impacts."
The Red Route would put a six-lane toll road through numerous neighborhoods, commercial developments, a 1,200-member church and parks.
DeWitt said new routes - alternatives to the Red, Pink and Orange routes - could be added in coming days. He said the Turnpike Authority wants to drop the two routes through Garner, but he wouldn't say when a decision might be made.
DeWitt said the maps distributed Wednesday at a meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board just showed a possible outcome of Thursday's meeting with regulators.
For now, uncertainty remains, putting a damper on Garner's economic development efforts.
"We may as well put an out-of-business sign on Garner," Williams said. "Everything's at a standstill."
East of Garner along the Johnston County line, the Green and Tan routes remain on the drawing table for now. They affect homes and churches as well, though not on the large scale of the Red Route.
Staff writer Bruce Siceloff contributed to this report.
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