County Commissioners on Tuesday added an exclamation point to the board’s previous endorsements of a proposed N.C. 540 extension route through southern Wake.
The incomplete highway currently loops across northern Wake from Knightdale in the east to Apex in the west.
The N.C. Department of Transportation is in the process of determining how it will finish the southern portion of the six-lane toll road between Apex and Knightdale, which would pass Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina and Garner along the way.
DOT is studying more than a dozen route possibilities, each identified with a different color, and is expected to make a final decision this fall.
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Wake County commissioners on Tuesday called on DOT to build the Orange Route, saying it best spares streams and existing communities. The route runs parallel to Ten-Ten Road north of Holly Springs and Fuquay-Varina before connecting to Interstate 40 south of Garner.
Other routes cut through neighborhoods around those towns. DOT slated the Orange Route as the likely path in the 1990s, but launched a review of other routes a few years ago in order to find the path that affects nature and homeowners the least.
DOT should offer peace of mind to those who have been expecting construction of the Orange Route for years, said Commissioner Matt Calabria, who represents southeastern Wake.
“I hear about this a lot,” Calabria said. “We’ve relied on this, we’ve planned on this being an important corridor.”
The Wake Board of Commissioners was controlled by Republicans when it passed resolutions supporting the Orange Route in 2010 and 2013.
The board is now controlled by Democrats, who decided to reaffirm the county’s support for the orange option because Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina and Garner each passed resolutions supporting the route this summer.
It’s unclear how much weight the opinions of four local governments will influence DOT’s decisions for 540.
“NCDOT values all of the community feedback, which is an important part of the route selection process, along with other elements required by the Federal Highway Administration,” Mike Charbonneau, a DOT spokesman, wrote in an email.
Public outcry has shaped the process before.
The state General Assembly in 2011 barred state regulators from studying a 540 extension option known as the Red Route at the behest of Garner residents and leaders who said it would destroy neighborhoods, parks and churches.
Legislators later rescinded their ban after state regulators said they needed to study the Red Route because the Orange Route would destroy wetlands that are home to an endangered mussel, something the Red Route avoids.