Challenge filed over deficient water quality permit for $2.2B N.C. toll road

More than 70 acres of wetlands and tens of thousands of stream feet will be plowed through under a proposal to extend a toll highway south of Raleigh.  (© Beth Maynard Finch)

SELC today filed a petition challenging the state’s issuance of a water quality certification permitting the construction of the $2.2 billion 540 toll highway south of Raleigh. This petition challenges the North Carolina Division of Water Resources’ failure to consider the toll highway’s devastating impacts on water quality, endangered aquatic species, and development patterns in Wake County, as well as the Division’s failure to consider other cost-effective and less environmentally destructive alternatives. 

The proposed toll highway would tear through 57,000 linear feet of streams and 70 acres of wetlands. By encouraging unplanned growth to sprawl out of Raleigh and into Southeast Wake County, the toll highway would also increase impervious surfaces and associated stormwater-runoff, contribute to the rise in greenhouse gas emissions, and degrade local air quality. Furthermore, users of the highway would have to pay a hefty toll which would be unaffordable for many segments of the population, forcing low income communities to suffer all of the costs associated with highway construction and operation and obtain no benefit.

The toll highway will result in devastating impacts to the natural and human environment and we are disappointed to see what amounts to a rubber stamp approval of a project that deserves much greater scrutiny.”

—Senior Attorney Kym Hunter

The conservation groups have repeatedly urged North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and the state Secretary of Transportation, Jim Trogdon, to reconsider construction of the toll highway and pursue other lower-cost, less damaging, and equitable transportation options.

 “We are disappointed that Governor Cooper’s administration continues to aggressively press forward with this project, despite the Governor’s commitment to combatting climate change,” said Senior Attorney Kym Hunter. “The toll highway will result in devastating impacts to the natural and human environment and we are disappointed to see what amounts to a rubber stamp approval of a project that deserves much greater scrutiny.”

This petition is the conservation groups’ latest action to halt construction on this expensive, outdated, and environmentally destructive highway project. The conservation groups have already filed numerous claims in federal court challenging approvals for the project by other state and federal agencies. Today’s filing was made in North Carolina’s Office of Administrative Hearings.

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