Winston-Salem N.C. Beltway Map from NCDOT
Winston-Salem Northern Beltway: Project# R-2247, U-2579, U2579-A
The North Carolina Department of Transportation insists on employing the discredited 1950s approach of condemn, bulldoze, destroy, and pave as clearly referenced in the plans for the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway. This makes no sense in the 21st Century. Consider the following facts:
Existing infrastructure is falling down around us. Local headlines remind commuters of 800 Triad bridges listed as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Citizens will be forced to drive over crumbling bridges to reach new multi-million dollar stadiums. Board of Transportation member, Nancy Dunn commented that she hopes the bridge disaster in Minneapolis helps galvanize the attention of state leaders. Davidson County Commissioner Max Walser laments, “We don’t have enough money in the state to fix potholes, much less build a new Yadkin River Bridge”. 5,602 of North Carolina’s 18,042 bridges are listed as substandard yet NC DOT wants to build the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway with 188 crossings of streams and wetlands requiring 18 new bridges and 37 major culverts.
Warnings to protect and conserve water due to the exceptional drought and state funding of $100 million for the Clean Water Management Trust Fund are futile if DOT is allowed to proceed with the beltway plans that impact 41,854 linear feet of streams, 32 acres of wetlands and 25 acres of ponds. Over 6,000 linear feet of streams will be drained and relocated.
NC farmland and open spaces are destroyed at a rate of over 100,000 acres per year. The beltway will destroy another 1,380 acres of prime statewide and locally important farmland.
NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources, “One NC Naturally” implemented a state-wide effort to conserve forests and cropland having the capacity of absorbing and sequestering carbon dioxide to help offset emissions, yet the beltway will decimate 2,233 acres of forestland. Warnings of poor air quality days are frequent in the Triad. Twenty-four NC counties (including the Triad) do not meet air quality standards for either ozone or particulate matter (non-attainment). Burning one gallon of gasoline creates nineteen pounds of carbon dioxide. The greatest sources of ground level ozone are cars and trucks.
It is clear that those who stand to profit financially are the same people who most influence decisions made by NC DOT. Why else would busy land developers constitute such a large percentage of appointed “advisory” panels?
The American Planning Association’s Policy on Climate Change prescribes re-use and upgrades to existing infrastructure. The NC Climate Action Plan Advisory Group and the NC Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change have a series of strategies in place, including provisions for increased public transport to reduce the number of miles driven in personal vehicles across the state. PART, the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation just announced plans to spend $787,000 for property to house a permanent bus and rail mass transit terminal expected to cost more than $17 million. Rail would be the efficient and safe way to promote regional connectivity.
North Carolina Department of Transportation’s daunting financial challenges, rising fuel costs and the devastating environmental consequences of building new roads are all compelling reasons to oppose the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway.
NC DOT leadership and planners must no longer ignore the “No-Build Alternative” in Environmental Impact Statements and should immediately adopt a “Fix-It-First Policy” for North Carolina Department of Transportation.
We must demand that our public employees start making more enlightened decisions in the public’s interest, with environmental sensitivity and accountability to the public.
Cathy M. Poole
Member of: NC Alliance for Transportation Reform
Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League