Smart Roads Alliance seeks answers on Southern Loop

By Jennifer Garlesky • Staff Writer

In their fight to stop progress to the proposed Southern Loop, members of the Jackson County Smart Roads Alliance filed a public records request last week with the North Carolina Department of Transportation to obtain all written material pertaining to the road.

All records about the Jackson County road project since its proposal in November 2003 should be made available for inspection, according to an attorney representing the group.

“It’s time for the public to know,” said Roger Turner, Smart Roads member. “Whose authority are they acting on?”

The Southern Loop project, a four-lane bypass that would run through Jackson from U.S. 441 to U.S. 23-74 near Scotts Creek, has been opposed by Jackson County residents and officials. County commissioners have gone on the record saying a comprehensive transportation plan should be done that outlines alternatives to the road.

The public records request letter was sent to Conrad Burrell, Division 14 representative on the state Board of Transportation; Joel Setzer, Division 14 Chief Engineer; and Elizabeth Reddic, N.C. DOT Planner.

Once the documentation is received and sifted through, groups members hope to find out why DOT suddenly started the planning phase for this project earlier this year.

“How exactly did the Southern Loop become a ‘priority’ on a regional planning list within a statewide transportation planning process without public knowledge or input?” asked Jeanette Evans, Smart Roads member, in a press release.

Southern Environmental Law Center Attorney D.J. Gerkin said the written material from the DOT should answer a lot of questions.

“Transportation projects are descendants of land-use plans,” Gerkin said. We need to find out “what this kind of road means to Jackson County and what are the real motivation-alternatives to this project.”

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