NC DOT will air options for 540 Outer Loop at public meetings

bsiceloff@newsobserver.comOctober 13, 2013 

RALEIGH

  • Learn about the ‘Complete 540’ project

    • Today, 4-7 p.m.

    Wake Tech Community College

    Student Services Building Room 213 / 214

    9101 Fayetteville Road, Raleigh 27603

    • Tuesday, 4-7 p.m.

    Barwell Road Community Center - Gymnasium

    3935 Barwell Road, Raleigh 27610

    • Wednesday, 6-9 p.m.

    Holly Springs High School Cafeteria

    5329 Cass Holt Road, Holly Springs 27540

    Project maps, reports and updates are online at ncdot.gov/complete540. Send your 540 comments to complete540@ncdot.gov.

  • How we got here, and what’s ahead

    1996: The state Department of Transportation establishes a protected corridor to limit development in its preferred path for the 540 Outer Loop between Holly Springs and Garner. It’s shown on maps today as the Orange Route.

    2005: DOT says 540 might not be finished until 2032. To get the work done sooner, Wake County leaders consider, and eventually agree, to endorse the project as part of the Triangle Expressway, the state’s first modern toll road.

    2010: With TriEx construction underway in western Wake, DOT engineers introduce a new map of color-coded alternative routes for the southern Wake leg. Some routes are quickly eliminated from consideration, but regulators press DOT to study the Red Route through Garner as an alternative to the Orange Route, which would damage sensitive wetlands.

    2011: At Garner’s request, the legislature passes a law forbidding further study of the Red Route.

    2012: Regulators refuse to consider the Orange Route by itself, and project work is suspended.

    Summer 2013: The 2011 law is repealed. DOT says it will study the Red Route and several others, including some that had been eliminated in 2010. The new study now extends into eastern Wake as well.

    Late fall 2013: DOT expected to winnow its list again, eliminating a few colors and beginning a detailed study of several southern and eastern Wake options.

    2015: DOT to decide on its preferred alternative route.

    2018: Construction could start.

    2022: Finished 540 Outer Loop could be opened to traffic.

    Source: NCDOT

— Residents in southern and eastern Wake County will gather around around big wall maps at three public meetings this week to see how close their houses are to a multi-color variety of possible routes for extending the 540 Outer Loop from Holly Springs to Garner and Knightdale.

The state Department of Transportation has scheduled the meetings for 4-7 p.m. Monday at Wake Tech, 4-7 p.m. Tuesday at the Barwell Road Community Center and 6-9 p.m. Wednesday at Holly Springs High School to provide updates on what it now calls the Complete 540 project.

We’ve been through this before. DOT planners introduced new alternative routes for 540 at gatherings three years ago, at the same three locations. Before then, DOT had only one preferred path for 540: a corridor set aside on planning maps in the mid-1990s and known now as the Orange Route.

But state and federal regulators insisted on alternatives. So in fall 2010, DOT floated new options including the reviled Red Route – which would grind up parks, churches, businesses and a handful of residential neighborhoods in Garner.

The Orange Route is still on the map, but regulators have qualms about it because it would trample wetlands and streams that shelter an endangered mussel.

The Red Route is still a possibility, too, in theory, although political leaders have promised they would never allow it to be built. Besides sowing destruction through Garner, the Red Route is not expected to offer a path that would attract as much traffic as some of the options running farther south.

One alternative drawing serious consideration from DOT planners is a rainbow connection of Purple, Blue and Lilac routes that would send 540 curving south from Holly Springs as it rolls across southern Wake, then run just north of the Orange Route to meet Interstate 40 near Garner.

The Blue and Purple routes had been proposed and then eliminated in 2010. But DOT resurrected parts of them for consideration in connection with the Lilac Route.

“We found that if we hooked up the Purple and the Blue, and connecting up to this new portion of Lilac, then that alternative has the potential to impact far fewer wetlands than with the Orange Route,” said Eric Midkiff, a DOT engineer overseeing the project plans.

The new map marks 1,000-foot-wide corridors – for a six-lane expressway that will be about 300 feet wide – in 10 different colors. The main options east of I-40, to take the 540 Outer Loop from Garner to Knightdale, are the Green and Brown routes.

Whatever colors are eventually selected in southern and eastern Wake County, the plan calls for DOT to complete Raleigh’s Outer Loop as a toll road. The first 18-mile section of the Triangle Expressway is now in business in western Wake.

Siceloff: 919-829-4527 or blogs.newsobserver.com/crosstown Twitter: @Road_Worrier

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