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

North Carolina Continues to Move Forward with Rail

2023 and the first half of 2024 have seen continued growth in North Carolina's passenger rail system.  From increased daily trains from Raleigh to Charlotte, federal funds for studying additional corridors, and receiving a historic grant to begin the construction of high-speed rail between Raleigh and Richmond, the last 18 months have been a flurry of activity at NCDOT's Rail Division.  And that's just the tip of the iceberg. As ridership and routes increase - the engine of North Carolina passenger rail trains will become a more common sight. (Adam Prince) Increased Passenger Train Service: On July 10, 2023, a fourth Piedmont round-trip rail service between Raleigh and Charlotte commenced.  The four Piedmont trains plus the daily Carolinian (to Washington, DC, and New York) bring the total of trains serving the two cities daily to five. The current daily Piedmont and Carolinian schedule between Charlotte and Raleigh (NCDOT) The result was over 641,000 passengers utilized pa

The Midway Palm and Pine of US Route 99

Along modern day California State Route 99 south of Avenue 11 just outside the City limits of Madera one can find the Midway Palm and Pine in the center median of the freeway.  The Midway Palm and Pine denotes the halfway point between the Mexican Border and Oregon State Line on what was US Route 99.  The Midway Palm is intended to represent Southern California whereas the Midway Pine is intended to represent Northern California.  Pictured above the Midway Palm and Pine can be seen from the northbound lanes of the California State Route 99 Freeway.   This blog is part of the larger Gribblenation US Route 99 Page.  For more information pertaining to the other various segments of US Route 99 and it's three-digit child routes check out the link the below. Gribblenation US Route 99 Page The history of the Midway Palm and Pine The true timeframe for when the Midway Palm and Pine (originally a Deadora Cedar Tree) were planted is unknown.  In fact, the origin of the Midway Palm and Pine w

US Route 101 in Benbow, Garberville and Redway

The communities of Benbow, Garberville and Redway can all be found along US Route 101 within southern Humboldt County.  The former surface alignment of US Route 101 in Garberville and Redway once crossed the Garberville Bluffs along what is now Redwood Drive via a corridor constructed as part of the Redwood Highway during the 1910s.  US Route 101 through Benbow, Garberville and Redway was modernized by 1935.  US Route 101 would eventually be upgraded to freeway standards in Benbow, Garberville and Redway by extension of the Redwood Freeway during 1966-68.  As the cover photo the original grade of US Route 101 and the Redwood Highway can be seen at the Garberville Bluffs during 1934.  US Route 101 can be seen in the communities of Benbow, Garberville and Redway on the 1935 Division of Highways Map of Humboldt County .   The history of US Route 101 in Benbow, Garberville and Redway Benbow, Garberville and Redway lie on the banks of the South Fork Eel River of southern Humboldt County.  D