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

Yes, the color of your nearby fire hydrant matters...

...and here's why. You will find White, Red, Yellow and Violet colored fire hydrants pretty much everywhere.  But there's a reason for this - and it's because of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).  This association has issued guidelines for color coding standards for fire hydrants.  These color codes from the body of the hydrant, top of the hydrant, and in some municipalities the outlet caps are designed to allow fire fighters to know what type of system, water flow rate (Gallons Per Minute or GPM), and level of water pressure.  This guideline is known as NFPA 291 and is intended to be used universally throughout the United States. The NFPA guidelines are specific to the body and the top cap of the hydrant.  If a hydrant is WHITE or YELLOW - it means that it is connected to a public/municipal water system.  If a hydrant is RED - the hydrant is connected to a private system, typically a well.  These are most common in rural or unincorporated areas

Phase 1 of the California State Route 132 West Expressway (in the making since 1947)

On September 15, 2022, the Phase 1 of the California State Route 132 West Expressway opened in the city of Modesto from California State Route 99 west to North Dakota Avenue.  Phase 1 of the California State Route 132 West Expressway was built upon a corridor which was tentatively to designated to become the branching point for Interstate 5W in the 1947 concept of the Interstate Highway System.  The present California State Route 132 West Expressway corridor was adopted by the California Highway Commission on June 20, 1956.  Despite almost being rescinded during the 1970s the concept of the California State Route 132 West Expressway corridor lingered on for over half a century and became likely the oldest undeveloped right-of-way owned by California Transportation Commission.  Pictured above is the planned California State Route 132 freeway west of US Route 99 in Modesto as featured in the May/June 1962 California Highways & Public Works.   The history of the California State Route

Aptos Creek Road to the Loma Prieta ghost town site

Aptos Creek Road is a roadway in Santa Cruz County, California which connects the community of Aptos north to The Forest of Nisene Marks State Parks.  Aptos Creek Road north of Aptos is largely unpaved and is where the town site of Loma Prieta can be located.  Loma Prieta was a sawmill community which operated from 1883-1923 and reached a peak population of approximately three hundred.  Loma Prieta included a railroad which is now occupied by Aptos Creek Road along with a spur to Bridge Creek which now the Loma Prieta Grade Trail.  The site of the Loma Prieta Mill and company town burned in 1942.   Part 1; the history of Aptos Creek Road and the Loma Prieta town site Modern Aptos traces its origin to Mexican Rancho Aptos.  Rancho Aptos was granted by the Mexican Government in 1833 Rafael Castro.  Rancho Aptos took its name from Aptos Creek which coursed through from the Santa Cruz Mountains to Monterey Bay.  Castro initially used Rancho Aptos to raise cattle for their hides.  Following