An analysis by the N.C. Department of Transportation of proposed routes for the remaining leg of the 540 Outerloop shows any combination involving the ‘Red Route’ would force at least 12 businesses and 435 families to relocate.
The Orange Route, on the other hand, would uproot about 269 families and six businesses, according to a draft Environmental Impact Statement, which was released last week by DOT.
It is among the least destructive alternatives going past Garner – or in the Red Route’s case, going through Garner –that will affect existing homes and businesses in its path. It also has the least impact on existing and planned public parks and recreational facilities.
Garner, Fuquay-Varina and Holly Springs have passed multiple resolutions in support of the Orange Route.
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County Commissioners and the Wake County Mayors Association also passed a resolution supporting the Orange Route with 100 percent support, Holly Springs Mayor Dick Sears said.
“We don’t do this very often,” he said.
However, the Orange Route has the highest impact on wetlands, affecting an endangered dwarf wedgemussel habitat in Swift Creek. It will affect at least 73.5 acres of wetlands and 23.2 acres of ponds, a big reason DOT studied the Red Route as well as other alternatives.
“My position hasn’t changed,” Fuquay-Varina Mayor John Byrne said. “I’m still for the Orange Route.”
DOT attempted to modify the Red Route, the study says. However, the number of historically significant sites presented a major challenge in trying to realign the Red Route, while still minimizing wetland impacts.
Among those historical sites were White Deer Park and a planned Bryan Road Nature Park in Garner.
Early in the study, a modified version of the Red Route, known as the Red Modified Corridor segment, was developed to avoid the two park sites in this area. But it was then found that the Red Modified Corridor segment had such numerous design constraints, making it an unfeasible alternative.
More modifications to the Red Modified Corridor, in order to avoid the sites, would have been even less feasible, according to the study.
The Red Route has been a main focus for residents in Garner, who still fear they could be displaced. The particular neighborhoods the route would likely destroy are The Village at Aversboro, Tiffany Woods, Heather Ridge, Forest Landing, Brookwood and Talicud Trail.
Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams said the study just confirms what the town knew all along.
“I’ve said all along, the Red Route would take too much out of Garner,” Williams said. “It would do too much damage and disrupt too many people.”
He said it’s reassuring to know that DOT is one step closer to making the right decision in not choosing the Red Route.
Dating back to the ‘90s, many neighborhoods were developed with the assumption that the Orange Route would be built. Buffers surround those neighborhoods and local governments have factored it into their future growth plans.
Not the most destructive
While the Red Route affects a high number of residential properties, it isn’t the most destructive alternative. Any combination that includes the Blue Route, which leads further east, seems to affect the most residential properties.
One of the combinations travels even further south of Garner, north of Fuquay-Varina and through the eastern part of Holly Springs to its north. That route alternative would force 569 homes and 15 businesses to relocate.
It also passes through places the latter two towns plan for future growth.
“I think the most important thing to understand is a decision hasn’t been made yet,” Chris Lukasina, executive director of the Capital Area Metropolitian Planning Organization said.
CAMPO is one of DOT’s partners in the 540 planning.
“You’re not going to see construction underway tomorrow,” Lukasina continued. “The schedule (DOT has) is that you still wouldn’t have a construction contract till 2018.”
The next step in the process will be public comment periods. Three dates are set for the meetings between Dec. 7-9.
Lukasina said after the public meetings, DOT will review them and respond. Depending on the number of comments DOT will make their preferred route recommendation, most likely in the spring. That will be included in the final EIS, expected to come out some time next year.
A decision is expected to be published in 2017. After that, DOT will look for bids in 2018 and start construction in 2020. The project will be done in three phases and is expected to be finished in 2025.
Will Doran and Kathryn Trogdon contributed to this report