Costly, Destructive Monroe Bypass Gets Federal Approval to Move Forward
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — In a disappointing move, the Federal Highway Administration has given its approval for North Carolina to move forward with the $900 million Monroe Bypass in Union County. Despite this approval, the Department of Transportation cannot move forward with construction of the controversial project until it acquires critical state and federal permits that were withdrawn by agencies in 2012.
Despite the Department of Transportation’s dogged pursuit of this costly toll road, local opposition to the project increased over the past year. Five municipalities in Union County recently passed resolutions in opposition to the project. These towns and other local leaders have joined SELC in calling for NCDOT to implement lower-cost solutions that would actually fix problems with U.S. 74. Fixing U.S. 74 would not only be a more efficient use of state dollars, but would provide much greater benefits to the residents and businesses of Union County.
The new federal approval for the Bypass comes two years after the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the Department of Transportation withheld critical information about the bypass from the public, and ordered the department to conduct a new project analysis. The Southern Environmental Law Center and its clients—Clean Air Carolina, the North Carolina Wildlife Federation and the Yadkin Riverkeeper—are concerned that crucial information is still being withheld from the public and misrepresented in violation of law. The groups are strongly considering a renewed legal challenge.
In the meantime, we urge the Department of Transportation not to expend any taxpayer resources on the project until all legal challenges have been fully resolved — including the criminal trial of the lead contractor set to build the bypass: Boggs Paving, which was indicted by a federal grand jury last year.
The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of nearly 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use. www.SouthernEnvironment.org