N.C. Turnpike Authority officials hope today to win state and federal environmental regulators' permission to drop the option of running a six-lane toll road across southern Wake County on the widely criticized “Red Route" and "Pink Route” that would bulldoze homes, businesses, parks and churches in Garner. [Updated 10:30 a.m.]
David Joyner, the Turnpike Authority director, said reports that the Red Route had been dropped were premature. "We hope it happens very, very shortly," he said this morning. [Update: see 1/21/2011 story.]
Turnpike officials are scheduled to meet today with federal environmental regulators who required them to consider the Red and Pink Routes as alternatives to a more southerly path, known as the Orange Route, which crosses streams that are home to an endangered species, the dwarf wedge mussel.
“We’re not quite there yet,” said Steve DeWitt, the turnpike authority’s chief engineer. “There are two things that could happen today. They could say, ‘We’ll agree to drop it,’ or they may want to think about it a little bit longer.”
The turnpike authority has said it hoped to persuade the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies that the Red Route would cause too much harm in Garner, and that the road could be built along the Orange Route with adequate safeguards to protect the mussel’s stream habitat. A related "Pink Route" segment, also criticized in Garner, is targeted for elimination as well.
At a meeting Wednesday of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board, a regional planning agency, Jennifer Harris, the turnpike authority’s planning and environmental director, distributed maps showing that some alternate routes had been eliminated. All of the Pink Route was gone, along with most of the Red Route. There were still red lines along I-40 and on a short segment east of I-40 in southwest Wake, but Harris told CAMPO offiicials she hoped the map would be updated soon to get rid of all the red.
“She made the point that the Red Route had been dropped,” Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams said this morning.