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Turnpike Authority preparing to drop TriEx Red Route option

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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.

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Look Out...

The Cat is out of the bag, Find a Map in the Turnpike Authorities website titled "Hybrid 1". The mysterious problem (reportedly a mussel, which could be easily discredited or safely worked around with construction practices) is actually a big money grab by the authority. They will cancel the eastern section of the toll road -between 40 & 64) and instead upgrade 40, 440, & 64 between the two ends of 540. Of course this converts those sections to toll and captures the tens of thousands of motorist who use these every day in tier toll trap... All for a section of road that will see little or know traffic for 20+ years (How many people flood the commuter routes between Johnston Co. & Knightdale). Good Luck NC. Easily and Company did us well....

The Garner Citizen got it right

When it's all said and done, The Garner Citizen reported it first and got it right. It seems that the news wasn't suppose to be released until this afternoon at 4pm. Too bad for the Turnpike Authority and good on The Garner Citizen for being there.

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About the blogger

Bruce Siceloff reports on traffic and transportation. A News & Observer reporter, editor and blogger since 1976, he took over the Road Worrier column in 2003. Lately he drives I-40 with the cruise control set at 68 mph. You can e-mail Bruce, call him at 919-829-4527, check out his Crosstown Traffic blog or follow him (@Road_Worrier) on Twitter.
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