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NC Transportation Department To Resume Work On Monroe Bypass

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The North Carolina Department of Transportation has received federal approval to restart its work on the Monroe Bypass. That toll road would span from I-485 in Mecklenburg County to U.S. 74 near Marshville in Union County.

The Monroe Bypass had been held up because a federal court ruled the state failed to provide an adequate environmental study for it. But Thursday, the Federal Highway Administration approved an environmental impact statement for the project.

It's a disappointing decision for environmental advocates like Kym Hunters, staff attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.  

"This project would cut through acres of farmland and natural habitat," she said, "so what we're concerned about is not just that you'd be putting this massive new highway through this very rural, beautiful area, but you'd also see a lot of development sprawling out into the countryside."

Hunter contends there are less destructive and cheaper alternatives to ease traffic on U.S. 74. But the state Department of Transportation says it will immediately resume purchasing land along the route, conducting permit work and developing the project's final design. Construction is now scheduled to start late this year or early next.

The Southern Environmental Law Center and other groups are considering another legal challenge.