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

Interstate 210 and California State Route 210 on the Foothill Freeway

This past December I was passing through the Los Angeles Area on a weekend I took a detour onto Interstate 210 eastbound on the Foothill Freeway to California State Route 2.  I-210 and CA 210 on the Foothill Freeway essentially serve as the closest thing to a Los Angeles bypass that the L.A. Metro Area has.


I-210/CA 210 on the Foothill Freeway is an approximately 85.31 mile highway which begins at I-5 in the northern outskirts of Los Angeles and travels east to I-10 in Redlands of San Bernardino County.  I-210 exists as the 44.9 mile segment of the Foothill Freeway between I-5 and CA 57 whereas CA 210 makes up the remaining 40.41 miles east to I-10.  I-210 originally utilized CA 57 from Glendora south on the Orange Freeway to I-10.  CA 57 south to I-10 is still FHWA recognized as part of I-210 which likely won't change until California seeks approval to add CA 210 to the Interstate System.



Part 1; the history of I-210 and CA 210

I-210 was approved as a chargeable Interstate during …

California State Route 1; the Cabrillo Highway through Big Sur and the Monterey Peninsula

This past January the winter weather was mild and conditions out in the Big Sur region were especially nice.  That being the case I decided on a weekend cruise northbound on California State Route 1 via the Cabrillo Highway from CA 46 near Harmony northward through Big Sur and the Monterey Peninsula to CA 156 in Castroville.


CA 1 through the Big Sur region isn't uncharted territory for Gribblenation.  Back in 2017 when the Mud Creek Slide, Paul's Slide and the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge collapse occurred the topic of CA 1 in Big Sur was common on this blog site.  That being the case even though the topic of CA 1 through Big Sur has been covered extensively I never really examined much of the history of the highway in the Monterey Peninsula.  Aside from the fact that I wanted to feature CA 1 through the Monterey Peninusla I'm always game for a top level scenic highway.  To that end the photos that I took on this most recent trip to CA 1 far exceed what I was taking in 2017 and …

Old US Route 101 in Salinas

This past June I visited much of what was the original alignment of US Route 101 within the City of Salinas.



Part 1; the history of US Route 101 in Salinas

Salinas is presently the largest City in Monterey County and is the County Seat.  Salinas lies within Salinas Valley and is located east of the namesake river.  Originally El Camino Real originally was routed through Salinas Valley on a course towards the Monterey Peninsula.  The route of El Camino Real was intended to solidify a path of travel between the Catholic Missions of Las Californias. In 1797 Mission San Juan Bautista was founded which led to a need for a spur of El Camino Real to be built from Salinas Valley over the Gabilan Range.  This spur of El Camino Real would become what is now Old Stage Road.  The split in the paths of El Camino Real roughly was located where the City of Salinas now sits. 

In 1804 Alta California was formed out of the larger Las Californias but the junction of El Camino Real in Salinas Valley …