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Charlotte Area News

Judge Gives The Go Ahead To Monroe Bypass

A judge ruled today in favor of the North Carolina Department of Transportation and cleared the way for construction of a 20-mile toll road known as the Monroe Bypass. This lawsuit delayed construction on the Monroe Bypass by about a year, according to North Carolina Department of Transportation spokeswoman Reid Simons. And the state didn't have to wait, she adds, "we felt we needed to be prudent and wait for that judge's decision." "Now there's nothing that stands in our way to execute that financial plan and begin the right of way and start construction," says Simons. The North Carolina Wildlife Federation, Clean Air Carolinas and Yadkin Riverkeeper filed the lawsuit arguing state officials based plans for the new toll road on a faulty environmental study. U.S. District Court Judge James Dever agreed that state officials did make a mistake in some of their calculations of the road's potential impact. But he says the state went out of its way to make sure those errors didn't affect the final outcome of the study. Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Chandra Taylor says the state department of transportation broke the law when it included those mistaken calculations in the environmental impact statement it distributed to the public. "We still believe that the law requires that you provide accurate information, so that once the inaccurate information is provided, you have a violation there," says Taylor, who represents the environmental groups in the lawsuit. Taylor says her clients will appeal the judge's ruling. Clean Air Carolinas is one of the groups in the lawsuit. "We know the traffic is bad along 74 - everybody knows that," says Clean Air Carolinas director June Blotnick. "But the question is 'What's the most cost-effective solution that will have the least impact on our natural environment and on our air and water quality?'" Blotnick says the $700-million toll road is not that solution. Two of the environmental groups have also filed an appeal to the water quality certificate the state granted for the project. Department of Transportation spokeswoman Reid Simons says it'll take about six months to issue the construction bonds and get final road designs cleared, so construction won't actually begin until next spring. Sometime in 2015, drivers on congested Highway 74 will have the option of a parallel road between I-485 and Marshville, if they're willing to pay the toll of about 13.5 cents a mile.