Local/State

Purple Route of Highway 540 has some seeing red

Friday, September 20, 2013

The southern extension of the Highway 540 loop is again causing major concern throughout southern Wake County.

However, the mayor of Holly Springs says he's got the inside track and is promising people in his town their homes are safe. The mayor and dozens of others are speaking out in an effort to steer the road in a different direction.

"It was a shock when I got the email yesterday telling me that this had been brought to the table again," said Marna Swagert. "It was very disappointing to hear."

Swagert has been through this before -- the fear of Highway 540 tearing up not just her neighborhood in Holly Springs, but her home as well.

"The proposed Purple Route goes right through our living room," said Swagert. "It [my house] would be gone."  

Recently, several people turned out to speak out in opposition to the so-called Purple Route, which is one of 17 routes being considered for the southern portion of Highway 540.

"We just bought our house in May and weren't aware of this situation obviously," said Frank Bio, "but our house looks like it's clearly in the path of the purple or lilac path at this point."

It's not that these folks didn't know about the Purple Route. They did, but it was passed over years ago in favor of the Orange Route.

In fact, the Orange Route had been the favored plan for nearly two decades until a couple years ago when the endangered wedge mussel was found along that route. The federal government told the state to look for a way around it.

"Federal law requires that we go through and do a full study of all the routes that are out there," said DOT Chief Engineer Terry Gibson.

Gibson say last week, to get the ball rolling again, they sent out more than 50,000 fliers asking anyone with a stake in the matter to weigh in.

"There are 17 different routes out there right now and a lot of folks are very concerned about those 17 routes," said Gibson. "We need to get to one and we need to get to one rapidly."

Rapidly won't be nearly fast enough for many homeowners. In fact, the DOT doesn't expect to whittle it down to one route for a full two years.

Holly Springs Mayor Dick Sears says that's two more years of stalled development.  Still says he's confident residents can rest easy.

"I do not think we're going to have a problem," said Sears.

Sears is also on the Transportation Advisory Committee and the work group for Highway 540. He says he's made an important pact with his fellow mayors in Garner and Fuquay-Varina.

"We're not going to budge. We're sticking with orange," said Sears. "Orange Route was the answer 20 years ago. It is today."

Still, people living in the area say they're taking no chances.  They'll be mailing in those fliers, and speaking out whenever they can to keep their homes and their neighborhood intact.

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Tags:
north carolina news, wake county news, i540, 540 triangle expressway, local/state, jon camp
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