The Monroe Connector Bypass plan is moving forward, though there still are some legal challenges that could delay, or even halt, construction.
The Southern Environmental Law Center is representing three clients – Clean Air Carolina, Yadkin Riverkeeper and N.C. Wildlife Federation – that are challenging what they say is the latest inadequate review of the environmental impact of the estimated $850 million project.
The proposed 20-mile toll road will begin near the U.S. 74/Interstate 485 interchange in Mecklenburg County, run roughly parallel to U.S. 74 in Union County and end between Wingate and Marshville.
The road is designed to speed travel through that area by allowing vehicles to avoid congestion on U.S. 74.
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The state and the Southern Environmental Law Center will present legal briefs to a District Court Judge next month. N.C. Department of Transportation Spokeswoman Jordan-Ashley Walker said the department expects a decision from the judge two to three months later.
Until then, N.C. DOT Assistant Division Construction Engineer Rick Baucom said, planning and right-of-way acquisition will continue.
Walker said the project includes almost 500 parcels; 70 have been settled, and approximately 80 more have approved appraisals, meaning an offer is imminent.
Rights of way along the last of the six-segment project – along U.S. 74 from the I-485 interchange to where the bypass turns right near Hemby Bridge – are still under design because of utility relocation concerns.
“We’re still getting all utility relocation plans in place. We don’t want to buy property and then have to come back later to get a utility easement,” Baucom said.
N.C. DOT still is waiting for several permits from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Water Resources, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and hopes to receive those within the next two months.
After the permits are received, the next step is completion of approved erosion and sedimentation control plans. The current schedule calls for the first plans to be ready early next month for the two eastern-most sections, with all sections ready by the end of August.
If all goes as planned, Walker said, the contractor will start grading in June.
Visit www.ncdot.gov/projects/monroeconnector to learn more about the Monroe Bypass project, relocation assistance and right-of-way issues.
Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Melinda? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.