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Senate OKs compromise to let DOT study TriEx Red Route through Garner

(Updated Thursday 5/30/13.) The Senate voted 44-5 today to approve a compromise with the House on legislation to let the state Department of Transportation resume planning work on the Triangle Expressway Southeast Extension, which will take the 540 Outer Loop across southern Wake County. A House vote is expected Monday.

The language was recommended by House and Senate conferees to settle differences between the two chambers. The measure repeals a 2011 law that stopped DOT from considering the unpopular Red Route, which would take the six-lane toll road through Garner -- destroying homes, parks and churches. The repeal bill has been stalled since February, when the House rejected Senate language that would cancel other toll-road projects.

The Red Route ban was intended only to keep DOT from running the new expressway through Garner, but it had the effect of halting DOT efforts to build it on any route. Federal regulators insisted on a full DOT study of the Red Route as an alternative to the more popular Orange Route, which would damage sensitive wetlands.

State and Wake County government leaders and DOT officials have said they'll never approve construction of the Red Route, but they'll allow road planners to study it. Garner residents supported the law blocking DOT study of the Red Route. Two of the five votes against its repeal Thursday came from Garner's two senators, Democrat Dan Blue and Republican Chad Barefoot.

The new compromise language duplicates provisions of the Senate-approved budget, which is now being considered in the House, and the House-approved Strategic Mobility Formula bill.

Tata endorses Senate push to deauthorize three turnpike projects

Transportation Secretary Tony Tata has endorsed a Senate proposal that probably would kill three turnpike projects in Currituck, New Hanover and Gaston counties.

If the measure becomes law, the state Department of Transportation will find itself authorized to continue work on only two toll roads: the 19.7-mile Monroe Connector / Bypass east of Charlotte, and the Triangle Expressway Southeast Extension, which would extend the 540 Outer Loop across southern Wake County from Holly Springs to I-40 near Garner.

State House leaders have not decided whether to go along with the Senate idea. The Senate added the provision three weeks ago, when it approved a House bill that began with a more limited scope. ... [MORE]

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