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NCTA narrows possible alignments on TriEx; but an endangered mussel may change route in Garner

Last week, the North Carolina Turnpike Authority eliminated three of the possible alternative routings for the southeastern extension of the Triangle Expressway.  The elimination of the Yellow, Purple, and Blue options come as a relief to residents of Holly Springs and Fuquay-Varina.  However, the dwarf wedge mussel - an endangered species - may alter the TriEx through Garner compared to the widely supported route proposal of 20 years.

Where the Orange Corridor, which has been on the books as the planned routing of the Southern Wake Expressway since the 1990's, crosses Swift Creek is near locations where the endangered mussel has been found.  The second option, known as the Red Corridor, crosses Swift Creek further north and the dwarf wedge mussel has not been known to habitat that section of the creek.

Even though the Orange Corridor has been the "protected corridor" for nearly 20 years, protected meaning that commercial and residential development has been limited on the prospective right of way, federal regulations require that other corridors be studied.

The Red Corridor would run further to the north and have a greater impact on existing homes, businesses, and planned development.  Garner leaders fear that the Red Corridor would cut the town in half.

This isn't the first time that the dwarf red mussel has impacted highways in North Carolina, specifically in the greater Raleigh area.  The US 70 Clayton Bypass was redesigned over Swift Creek and delayed a number of years on mitigation issues for the endangered mussel.  100 foot buffer zones were created to prevent environmental damage from chemical and oil sediment runoff into Swift Creek.

The concern over the Red Corridor and its possible impact on the town prompted Garner officials to hold a town hall meeting this evening in which a capacity crowd was expected.

The NCTA expects a route to be finalized by 2012.

Story Links:
Highway may divide Garner to protect mussels ---Raleigh News & Observer
Expressway route options narrow ---Raleigh News & Observer

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