Holly Springs leery of Purple Route

aspecht@newsobserver.comOctober 18, 2013 

  • History of 540

    1996: The state Department of Transportation establishes a protected corridor to limit development in its preferred path for the 540 Outer Loop between Holly Springs and Garner. It’s shown on maps today as the Orange Route.

    2005: DOT says 540 might not be finished until 2032. To get the work done sooner, Wake County leaders consider, and eventually agree, to endorse the project as part of the Triangle Expressway, the state’s first modern toll road.

    2010: With TriEx construction underway in western Wake, DOT engineers introduce a new map of color-coded alternative routes for the southern Wake leg. Some routes are quickly eliminated from consideration, but regulators press DOT to study the Red Route through Garner as an alternative to the Orange Route, which would damage sensitive wetlands.

    2011: At Garner’s request, the legislature passes a law forbidding further study of the Red Route.

    2012: Regulators refuse to consider the Orange Route by itself, and project work is suspended.

    Summer 2013: The 2011 law is repealed. DOT says it will study the Red Route and several others, including some that had been eliminated in 2010. The new study now extends into eastern Wake as well.

    Late fall 2013: DOT expected to winnow its list again, eliminating a few colors and beginning a detailed study of several southern and eastern Wake options.

    2015: DOT to decide on its preferred alternative route.

    2018: Construction could start.

    2022: Finished 540 Outer Loop could be opened to traffic.

    Source: N.C. DOT

— This cafeteria hosts its share of angst-ridden visitors, but they’re not usually this old.

Realtor Francesca Mahoney was one of dozens of residents who leaned over a cafeteria table at Holly Springs High School on Wednesday to listen to N.C. Department of Transportation representatives explain the possible effects of several Interstate 540 extension options.

Mahoney is concerned some of her most recent clients would live within the Purple Route, which would cut through Sunset Oaks, Holly Springs’ third-largest neighborhood.

“I just put them in new construction in July,” she said. “I’ve had lots of calls.”

The three-hour event was the third and final public meeting hosted by the N.C. DOT to collect input on 17 proposed route combinations for extending the I-540 Outer Loop from Holly Springs to Knightdale. Combined, the meetings drew more than 1,600.

About 545 people met in Holly Springs, where two options – the Orange Route and the Purple Route – have the town’s attention. Most said they favored the Orange Route, which would affect fewer homes and businesses in the area.

The Orange Route runs parallel to Ten-Ten Road north of Holly Springs and Fuquay-Varina and is the shorter of the two options.

The Purple Route branches south off the Orange Route down Pierce-Olive Road and connects to the Blue Route at U.S. 401 after crossing Hilltop Needmore and Johnson Pond roads.

Many people at Wednesday’s meeting said they were unaware the Purple Route is under consideration. The Orange Route was identified as a likely option in the mid-1990s, so property owners and town staffs planned around it.

The Purple Route emerged after federal regulators instructed the N.C. DOT to study additional I-540 extension options that would have less of an environmental impact.

Eric Midkiff, head of project development for the N.C. DOT, said preliminary studies show the Purple Route would affect 46 acres of wetlands, while the Orange Route 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.

“The wetlands are important, but not as important as the people who live here,” said Barbara Flodin, who looked at a map with her husband, Andy. They live in the Wescott subdivision, between the Orange and Purple routes.

The Holly Springs Town Council endorsed the Orange Route earlier this month, partly because the Purple Route would displace dozens of homes in Sunset Oaks. That’s where Lauren Worsham moved in July with her husband and two children. “We just moved away from the Red Route in Garner,” she said, referring to a route that would cut through that town. “It’s like we can’t get away from it.”

As Worsham filled out an N.C. DOT comment form in a corner of the cafeteria, Holly Springs Mayor Dick Sears and Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams walked by. Worsham introduced herself, and Sears tried to reassure her that the state couldn’t conceivably build the Purple Route.

Still, voicing her opinion and hearing plans didn’t make her feel comfortable. “At least it gives me a good understanding of where they’re coming from,” she said.

Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

Cary News is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service