HOLLY SPRINGS — If town leaders have their way, the future path of N.C. 540 will be drawn in orange ink.
The Holly Springs Town Council passed a resolution Tuesday that endorses the so-called Orange Route, which would place the Outer Loop north of town and parallel to Ten-Ten Road.
A total of 17 route combinations could extend the highway through southern and southeastern Wake County. But only two – Orange and Purple – would directly affect Holly Springs.
Mayor Dick Sears said he’s not in favor of the Purple Route because it would cut through the Sunset Oaks neighborhood, which has about 600 homes and is the town’s third-largest subdivision.
“I don’t see where the Orange Route has much of an impact at all in Holly Springs,” Sears said. “I’ve heard no complaints about the Orange Route. None. Zero. Zip.”
Debates about the future of 540 have been going on for years. The N.C. Department of Transportation identified the Orange Route as a preferred option in the mid-1990s. The Purple Route was developed in recent years as the state, in order to comply with federal regulations, searched for alternative routes that would have less environmental impact.
Preliminary studies show the Purple Route would affect 46 acres of wetlands, said Eric Midkiff, head of project development for the DOT. The Orange Route, meanwhile, would affect 80 acres of wetlands.
But the Purple Route would affect 350 homes and businesses throughout southern Wake County – about 30 more than the Orange Route.
Council members made two things clear to Midkiff, who attended the Tuesday meeting: They prefer the Orange Route, and they’re sick of waiting on DOT to conduct studies on unpopular routes.
“Folks I’ve spoken to are upset about this, and I don’t blame them,” said Councilwoman Linda Hunt Williams. “It’s unnecessary bureaucracy.”
Councilman Chet VanFossen said the Purple Route is “not equitable.”
“And these people can’t do anything with their property because it’s on a protected route,” he said of residents who live along the proposed Orange Route.
Midkiff said he sympathized with the town’s concerns, but DOT can only go as fast as the federal process will allow.
“We hear from people every day within that corridor,” Midkiff said. “The best thing we can do is finish this project.”
The next step for DOT is to collect input from residents at public meetings over the coming weeks.
The state will take Holly Springs’ Orange Route endorsement under “serious consideration,” Midkiff said.
“It carries a lot of weight,” he said. “We’re really concerned about building the project that our local municipality partners envision.”
Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams and Fuquay-Varina Mayor John Byrne also support the Orange Route.
“It’s the route everybody’s been planning on for years,” Byrne said.
In Garner, town leaders lobbied state legislators to ban the DOT from studying the Red Route, only to see the ban lifted earlier this year.
The path would bulldoze some Garner developments.
The Purple Route’s effects may not compare to those of the Red Route, but that might not matter much to Holly Springs residents.
“I’ve gotten tons of emails, believe me,” Sears said.
Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht