Skip to main content

N.C. 288 will remain dead and buried

Swain County's Road to Nowhere will, indeed, continue to go nowhere.

Last Saturday, Swain County officials signed an agreement with the Department of the Interior to officially cancel the North Shore Road, proposed for nearly 70 years to replace a section of N.C. 288 that was submerged by the Tennessee Valley Authority during the construction of Fontana Lake in the early 1940s. The status of the road has been a hot topic in Swain County for decades, with proponents arguing that the federal government should keep its promise, allowing road access to old cemeteries on the north shore of Fontana Lake and giving the county a scenic route to rival the Blue Ridge Parkway and Cherohala Skyway, potentially benefitting tourism. Opponents felt that the road would ruin the rustic character of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which extends as far south as the lake, and that Swain County, one of North Carolina's poorest, would benefit from a significant cash settlement that could provide the county with a windfall on the order of several times its annual budget.

The agreement states that the county will receive $52 million over the next ten years, contingent on approval by Congress. Nearly a quarter of that money, $12.8 million, will be appropriated to the county this year, and the rest will be included in federal budgets for the next ten years. President Obama's 2011 budget includes a $4 million payment to the county.

As part of the settlement, Swain County commissioners will only have full control over the interest generated by the settlement. The principal will be unavailable for spending unless its use is approved by a 2/3 majority of Swain County voters.

Commentary: For one of the poorest counties in North Carolina, this settlement is manna from heaven. Swain County is hamstrung by its location, since over half of the county is part of GSMNP, the Nantahala National Forest or the Cherokee Indian Reservation, all of which are federal lands that do not pay property taxes to the county. As a result, the county has suffered for decades with service cuts, undercompensated employees and some of the worst-performing schools in North Carolina.

Estimates were that finishing the North Shore Road would cost upwards of $600 million, clearly a significant sum given the current haggling over the deficit. By settling with the county, the government saves millions of dollars.

However, it's a shame for the families, some of whom have lived in western North Carolina for generations, who are still beholden to the National Park Service ferries to visit the gravesites of their ancestors. Perhaps, as an olive branch to these families, the NPS should consider increasing the frequency of ferry service, maybe to an on-demand system, to allow the families access to the cemeteries more frequently.

From a road-access perspective, N.C. 288's potential usefulness certainly isn't to the level that would justify spending hundreds of millions of dollars for its construction. In recent years, parts of N.C. 28 on the other side of Fontana Lake has been widened to accommodate the eventual U.S. 19/74 bypass of the Nantahala Gorge, and as a result all but 13 miles of the Bryson City-to-Fontana Dam route is now a divided four-lane highway. The N.C. 28 route adds about four miles to the trip as compared to a potential N.C. 288 route, but it is much safer and has the advantage of being fully built.

If nothing else, it at least gives folks a reason to go to Bryson City, to see the completed portion of the North Shore Road and wonder what might have been.

Links:
Swain gets $52 million in North Shore Road deal: http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2010302030031
70 years later, North Shore Road dispute ends in Swain County: http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2010302070047
Restrictions placed on Swain North Shore Road settlement money: http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2010302050035
Swain board OKs historic North Shore Road deal for cash: http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2010302060037
Long dispute over road ends: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local_state/story/337999.html

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

California State Route 190; a Trans-Sierra Highway that could have been

This past week I decided to take a small scale road trip on California State Route 190 from CA 99 east to the unbuilt section over the Sierra Nevada Range.  While I was in for what turned out to be a fun drive following the course of the Tule River watershed what I found researching the back story of CA 190 was one of the most complex and unusual stories of any California State Highway.  Given that I had a ton of older photos of the eastern segment of CA 190 in the Mojave Desert of Inyo County I thought it was time to put something together for the entire route. The simplified story of CA 190 is that it is a 231 mile state highway that has a 43 mile unbuilt gap in the Sierra Nevada Range.  CA 190 is an east/west State Highway running from CA 99 in Tulare County at Tipton east to CA 127 located in Death Valley Junction near the Nevada State Line in rural Inyo County.  The routing CA 190 was adopted into the State Highway system as Legislative Route 127 which was adopted in 1933 acc

Old US Route 40 on Donner Pass Road

While completing California State Route 89 between Lassen Volcanic National Park and US Route I took a detour in Truckee up the infamous Donner Pass Road. Generally I don't dispense with the history of a roadway before the route photos but the history of Donner Pass is steeped within California lore and western migration.  The first recorded Wagon Crossing of Donner Pass was back in 1844.  The infamous Donner Party saga occurred in the winter of 1846-47 in which only 48 of the 87 party members survived.  Although the Donner Party incident is largely attributed to poor planning and ill conceived Hastings Cutoff it largely led to the infamous reputation of Donner Pass. The first true road over the Sierra Nevada Range via the Donner Pass was known as the Dutch Flat & Donner Lake Road.  The Dutch Flat & Donner Lake Wagon Road was completed by 1864 to assist with construction of the Central Pacific build the First Trans-Continental Railroad over Donner Pass.  The websit

California State Route 159 (former California State Route 11 and US Route 66)

California State Route 159 was a post 1964-Renumbering State Route which was designated over former segments of California State Route 11 and US Route 66.  As originally defined California State Route 159 began at Interstate 5/US Route 99 at the Golden State Freeway in Los Angeles.  California State Route 159 followed Figueroa Street, Colorado Boulevard and Linda Vista Avenue to the planned Foothill Freeway.  California State Route 159 was truncated during 1965 to existing solely on Linda Vista Avenue where it remained until being relinquished during 1989.  California State Route 159 was formally deleted from the State Highway System during 1992.   The history of California State Route 159 Prior to 1933 the Division of Highways was not actively involved in maintaining urban highways outside of occasional cooperative projects.  The responsibility for signage of US Routes in cities was thusly given to the Automobile Club of Southern California in the Southern California region.  This bei