Roads to Watch
State(s): North Carolina
The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is proposing to improve the US 64 corridor in the area of Asheboro, Randolph County. As part of this action, NCDOT also will improve access to the North Carolina Zoological Park (NC Zoo). The project is currently in the environmental planning phase. The project is listed in NCDOT’s Draft 2004-2010 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) as Project R-2536.
Alternative improvements currently being considered include several locations for a bypass on the south side of Asheboro, with a new road connecting to the NC Zoo. The new bypass would be a four-lane, controlled-access (no driveways) highway about 13-14 miles long. The opposite directions of travel would be separated by a grassy/landscaped median about 45 feet wide. The new road to the NC Zoo (the NC Zoo Connector) would be a two-lane controlled-access highway with design characteristics similar to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Total right-of-way width along the new bypass would average about 300 feet, with additional right of way needed at interchange locations to account for the ramps. Interchanges are being considered at both ends of the project on US 64, and at NC 49, I-73/74 (US 220 Bypass), the new NC Zoo Connector, NC 159, and NC 42.
The stated purpose of the road expansion is to improve the local economy and make hurricane evacuations more efficient. Whether or not the project will actually accomplish these goals is in serious doubt. The total funding for this project is estimated to be $176.6 million.
State(s): Montana, Wyoming
The Federal Highway Administration has proposed upgrades on the historic Beartooth Highway, which connects the two Montana towns of Red Lodge and Cooke City, part of it running through Wyoming and connecting to the northeast entrance of Yellowstone Park. Beartooth Highway, built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, has been called ‘America’s Most Beautiful Road,’ and was built with deep respect for the land it runs through. The FHWA’s proposal, which was the preferred alternative selected from a list of options studied for their environmental impacts, is to widen the highway’s distinctive 18-mile segment across the 10,000-foot Beartooth Plateau to between 28 and 32 feet. Other parts of the plan include re-aligning some of the highway’s bends and replacing four hand-cut granite bridges that are candidates for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The upgrades would be part of a $50 million project.
The proposed Birmingham Northern Beltline is a 52-mile “limited access expressway” around the northern undeveloped fringes of Jefferson County. Originally to be four lanes, it is now planned to be a six-lane interstate highway, approximately the size of Corridor X. The cost estimate has jumped 38% percent since late 2009, to a whopping $4.7 billion. At $90 million a mile, the Beltline would rank as one of the most expensive highways ever built in the U.S. The project is expected to take over 20 years to complete.
The planned route, Alternate A is the outermost route considered by the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT). Its southern terminus is I-459, south of Bessemer, and its northern terminus is I-59, north of downtown Trussville, near the Carrington neighborhood. It consists of five segments, with each segment broken up into smaller sections.
State(s): North Carolina
The North Carolina Department of Transportation proposes to build a new bridge to replace the existing Bonner Bridge over the Oregon Inlet. Two corridor alternatives are being considered. Corridor Alternative 1 is about 6 miles long and ends near the northern freshwater pond on Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. This alternative would minimize costs but may not be compatible with the management strategies of the Refuge. Corridor Alternative 4 is about 17 miles long and ends near the emergency ferry dock in Rodanthe. This alternative would minimize natural resource impacts and would bypass three locations on N.C. 12 regularly threatened by ocean overwash. All of the corridors begin on Bodie Island at the northern endpoint of the existing bridge near the U.S. Coast Guard Station and the Oregon Inlet Marina.
Interstate Highway 99, also called Bud Shuster’s Highway, also called the Appalachian Thruway, also called Corridor 9, is a 58 mile stretch of road through central Pennsylvania, beginning at I-76 and ending at Interstate 80. The Interstate 99 conclusion in the north at Bald Eagle Mountain, is widely disliked, not only for the environmental damages, but because it is largely thought to be the result of shady political maneuverings by Congressman Bud Shuster, who retired in 2000 (his seat was filled by his son Bill). Shuster the elder, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, got a high priority transportation corridor routed through his home district, with the expressed purpose to alleviate the traffic congestion of the area. Shuster both named and numbered the resulting road, causing much protest among those who argued that the highway numbering system was set, and not subject to the whims of congressmen. Interstate 99, in fact, should be east of Interstate 95 and Interstate 97; Shuster’s road, on the other hand, isn’t even east of Interstate 81.
On June 16, 1999, the Army Corps of Engineers issued a permit allowing PennDOT to fill in wetlands for the construction of a segment of Highway I-99 through a large tract of ecologically valuable forests and wetlands on central Pennsylvania's Bald Eagle Mountain. Local environmental groups, as well as the U.S. FWS and the Pennsylvania Game Commission, long opposed this "ridge alignment," which would destroy irreplaceable wetlands and fragment forest — denuding a 400-foot wide swath of continuous forest on the side of the ridge for a length of about eight miles, and paving over 500 acres of forest, including 90 acres of state game lands.
There is widespread opposition to using the ridge route in the extension of I-99, coming not just from the environmental and conservationist groups, but also from the involved government agencies, like the FWS. PennDOT, however, insisted on the ridge route.
State(s): Georgia, Tennessee
Collier County and the Florida Department of Transportation are aggressively pursuing a new interchange on Alligator Alley at Everglades Blvd. Design for a new interchange can only proceed, however, if the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) first approves the Interchange Justification Report (IJR) and subsequent Project Development & Environment Study.
The new interchange is proposed between the Naples toll booth and the S.R. 29 interchange in the area immediately north of Picayune Strand Everglades Restoration Project and directly west of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.
At the county’s request in April 2009, FDOT began an Efficient Transportation Decision Making (ETDM) study for the proposed new interchange. ETDM has brought FDOT’s environmental partners into early discussions about the proposed new interchange and has given environmental agencies the opportunity to raise important issues before a future Project Development & Environment Studies begins. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Florida Department of Environmental Protection raised significant environmental issues, and these important concerns are the subject of the Cumulative Effects Evaluation Study.
(Photo credit: Darrell Land)
The Jefferson Parkway would run roughly northeast from Colorado 93, north of Golden, to Colorado 128 near the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport. Its construction would supposedly improve regional connectivity by bringing closer to completion a loop around metro Denver. The latest proposed route is only possible with the Highway Authority's purchase of a small portion of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge. The $2.8 million sale would mean paving a 300-foot wide, 3.5-mile-long piece of Rocky Flats. The four-lane, high-speed roadway would have a tremendous negative impact on wildlife. While neither Boulder nor Golden want the tollway, the new route is less controversial. The former route along a northern section of Colorado Highway 93 was fought bitterly by Boulder County, which is worried about development pressing up against its border, and by Golden, which fears increased congestion. Governor Bill Ritter and CDOT dropped the project in June 2008.
State(s): North Dakota
Within the North Dakota Badlands, the project limits are the northern border of the Billings County line, western border of ND Highway 16, eastern border of US Highway 85, and southern border of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The purpose of the project is to provide system linkage between ND Highway 16 and US Highway 85 for a variety of socioeconomic demands, such as emergency management services, industry, agriculture, and recreation. Alternatives under consideration include: (1) take no action; (2) construction of a river crossing structure: bridge, low-water crossing, or box culvert; (3) different roadway alignments to the river crossing, including upgrading and/or constructing roadways to meet NDDOT guidelines/standards.
There are well over 3,000 miles of roads on the Little Missouri National Grasslands. You will never be more than 4 miles from a road no matter where you go on the 1,000,000 acres of the LMNG.
Billings County has now proposed building another road and a bridge or a cement low-water crossing across the Little Missouri State Scenic River to facilitate oil truck traffic.
State(s): North Carolina
New location roadway from US 74 at I-485 in eastern Mecklenburg County to US 74 near the Town of Marshville in Union County. Length is approximately 19.7 miles. Preliminary cost is estimated at $750-$825 million. Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) completed in May 2010. Project proposed to be open to traffic in late 2014.
Caltrans began planning the project a decade ago, hoping to curb the high number of accidents along the road. CA Highway Patrol officers have complained that because the road lacks shoulders in many areas, it's unsafe for them to pull over motorists. Caltrans' plans call for retaining walls, replacing Alameda Creek Bridge and adding 8- to 10-foot shoulders on both sides of the road. But Niles residents say that widening the road would only increase accidents on Niles Canyon Road, not decrease them. State safety statistics show Niles Canyon does not have a relatively high accident rate and is actually below the state average. Caltrans has already removed more than 100 mature native trees from Niles Canyon. Although Caltrans has promised not to increase speed limits, residents say that the proposed changes would serve to increase vehicle speed despite unchanged speed limits.
Niles Canyon Phase I: Project includes curve realignment and widening between Rosewarnes Underpass and Farwell Underpass in Alameda County.
Niles Canyon Phase II: Project proposes to widen shoulders from just east of Alameda Creek Bridge to Interstate 680.
Niles Canyon Phase III: Project proposes to replace the Alameda Creek Bridge just east of Route 84/Palomares Road intersection.
This project would extend the Western Beltway around Orlando, FL farther north, and would connect Highway 441 and State Road 46. This Beltway connection would cut through the environmentally sensitive Wekiva River Basin Area, severing the habitat corridor that links the basin's endangered black bears to the Ocala National Forest population. The extension is intended to alleviate the traffic problems of the Orlando-Orange County area. State Road 429 is projected to handle over 56,000 cars per day by 2025.
On February 5, 2003, Congressman Richard Pombo, who represents California’s 11th District (in the Central Valley), introduced H.R. 619, which directs the Secretary of Transportation to conduct a study to determine the feasibility of constructing a highway in California connecting State Route 130 in Santa Clara County with Interstate Route 5 in San Joaquin County. The proposed highway would be a 6-lane expressway to be used primarily by commuters from the Central Valley to Silicon Valley. The highway would cut through 23 miles of the undeveloped Mount Hamilton region, known for its ranching and the Lick Observatory. Trucks would not be allowed to use this road, and there would be no exits along the length of it. As an alternative to the heavily-congested Pacheco and Altamont Passes, the new freeway is projected to cut commutes in half, at the expense of the nature wilderness in which it will be located.
The Yuma Area Service Highway is a 23-mile, 4 lane expressway that links Avenue E in San Luis, Arizona, to Interstate 8 at the Araby Road Interchange in Yuma. Avenue E is on the US/Mexico border, and represents the location of a new port of entry that is expected to facilitate the movement of vehicles into and out of the country. The Yuma ASH would provide high-speed, limited access to the commercial truck traffic of the region, which is expected to increase to 1200 trucks crossing the border daily by 2015.
The ASH corridor is part of the 1995-2015 County-wide Transportation Plan of Yuma County, and has an estimated cost of $86.7 million dollars, which will be split among the various counties, cities, ADOT, Yuma Metropolitan Planning Organization (YMPO), and included in the reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act, due out late in 2003.
State(s): New York
The Rooftop Highway is a proposed four-lane highway that would trace the current Route 11 in upstate New York, connecting I-81 and I-87 from the town of Watertown to Plattsburgh. This road has been under discussion in New York since the 1970s, but is currently getting closer to construction that it ever has before.
State(s): South Carolina
The Washington State Department of Transportation, in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service and the counties adjacent to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, has concluded a study to determine the feasibility of extending State Road 504, the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway, which was built after the explosion of Mount St. Helens in 1980.
The extension would stretch the road seven miles farther through the area, to link Windy Ridge to the east and major U.S. Forest Service roads leading to the Columbia River to the south and U.S. Highway 12 to the north and points east.
State(s): Minnesota, Wisconsin
The $690 million St. Croix River Crossing Project would connect the city of Stillwater, MN on the eastern fringe of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, with the small community of Houlton, WI on the river's opposite bank. Under a plan developed by the Minnesota DOT, a new, four-lane bridge would replace the 80-year-old two-lane Stillwater Lift Bridge, which when raised allows recreational and small commercial vessels to pass underneath. The drawbridge is sometimes forced to shut down for several days due to flooding, requiring drivers to detour several miles south to the much larger Interstate 94 crossing.
The National Park Service (NPS), which oversees the Lower St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and many of the more than 200 waterways Congress has placed in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, has formally rejected the bridge proposal twice in the past 15 years -- most recently in October 2010. In its 2010 decision, then-NPS Midwest Regional Director Ernest Quintana wrote that the Park Service cannot consider any proposal that will have "direct and adverse effects on the values for which the river was designated as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System" when those impacts cannot "be avoided or eliminated," as NPS has determined with the St. Croix bridge project.
State Road 85 runs through the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, which is at the southernmost point of Arizona, in the Sonoran Desert. SR 85 is a two-lane roadway, on which traffic is expected to double within the next twenty years.
The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) are planning to re-pave and "improve" the 23 miles of SR 85 that cut through Organ Pipe in order to accommodate and encourage tourist traffic to Rocky Point, Mexico. The construction priorities of the SR 85 improvement project are expanding the road to four lanes and adding a raised median.
The ADOT has committed more than $100 million to the 12 interim projects that constitute the improvement of SR 85, to be completed over a period of five years. Ultimately, the ADOT’s goal is a fully access controlled highway of 37 miles, at an estimated cost of $300 million.
Wyoming DOT and Federal Highway Administration have proposed improvements to a 37-mile segment of US 287/26 between Moran Junction and Dubois, Wyoming. These improvements include 6 foot shoulders, passing /turning lanes, recovery zones, new surfacing, repairing adjacent landslide areas, realignment of curves (straightening) and adding parking for recreation. This road segment bisects two adjoining National Forests, the Bridger-Teton and Shoshone National Forests. The Togwotee Pass area maintains wildlife habitat connectivity by linking Yellowstone National Park and the Teton Wilderness with the Wind Rivers and Wyoming Range. Thus, wildlife-vehicle collisions are prevalent on this road.
TxDOT's proposed $85 million project would widen the Trans Mountain Road, or Loop 375, in El Paso from I-10 into Franklin Mountains State Park (including 3.6 mi of main lanes and 2.1 mi of frontage roads) expanding the current two-lane undivided road to a four-lane divided road with two-lane frontage roads. The right-of-way (ROW) footprint and geometric design would provide for expansion to six main lanes from Northwestern Drive to east of Paseo del Norte Drive.
Five alternatives were also developed by TxDOT: (1) No-Build, (2) construction of a climbing lane, (3) construction of two new lanes, (4) a boulevard concept, and (5) a freeway facility with frontage roads and direct connectors to I-10.
Roadkill is already a problem on the road, and widening the road to four lanes can lead to decreased habitat connectivity, decreased species gene pool variation, and declining populations.
I-73 is a proposed new 72-mile freeway linking I-81 in Roanoke, VA to U.S. 220 in North Carolina. It crosses through the City of Roanoke, Virginia and the Virginia Counties of Roanoke, Franklin, and Henry. I-73 is superimposed on I-581 and U.S. 220 to a point in Roanoke County where it veers onto new alignment for 65 miles. I-73 will have significant, irreversible adverse effects on natural, scenic and ecological resources.