RALEIGH — 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.
Weve 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 Raleighs Outer Loop as a toll road. The first 18-mile section of the Triangle Expressway is now in business in western Wake.