Us 74 Relocation / Corridor K

US 74 Relocation/Corridor K Proposed CMC Position – Draft 1

The N.C. Department of Transportation is proposing to relocate US 74 from Robbinsville to Stecoah in Graham County, a segment of Corridor K.  The new four-lane road would cross the Appalachian Trail at Stecoah Gap, severely impacting viewsheds from the AT and the hiking experience on the AT for 10 miles.  In particular, views from Cheoah Bald, where the Bartram Trail and the AT meet, would be affected.  The proposed project would cost $383 million and property acquisition would start in fiscal 2012 with construction to start in 2014. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy opposes construction of the road, but requests careful mitigation, including a tunnel, at the AT intersection, if the road must be built.  Conservation organizations, including the umbrella organization WaySouth, oppose construction of a four-lane road through pristine country-side The proposed relocation route of US 74 would destroy pristine countryside, fragment wildlife habitat, degrade water quality and impair scenic views.  WaySouth is an umbrella organization for opposition to Corridor K and Stop I3.  CMC is currently a supporting organization of Stop I3.

Proposed Position Statement Relocation of US74/Corridor K Carolina Mountain Club – November, 2009

The Carolina Mountain Club opposes the construction of four-lane road segments of Corridor K in Western North Carolina.
The proposed relocation of US 74 will have significant negative impacts on the Appalachian Trail and its users.  There will be significant changes in the viewshed as seen from the AT, for example from the overlooks on Cheoah Bald and the rock outcrops along the AT north of Stecoah Gap, which will greatly diminish the primitive experience the AT is intended to provide.  There will be significant negative impacts from vastly increased noise associated with construction of the new highway and the increased speed and volume of traffic once the road is complete.  There will be direct negative impacts on the AT and its users for approximately ten AT.miles between Swim Bald and Brown Fork Gap. The hiking experience on the Bartram Trail will also suffer, since this trail also crosses Cheoah Bald. The proposed relocation route of US 74 would destroy pristine countryside, fragment wildlife habitat, degrade water quality and impair scenic views. NC Department Of Transportation studies show that the current two-lane road segments, (US 129, NC 143, and NC 28) will provide acceptable levels of service at least until 2030.  Support for economic and social development of Graham County can be provided by more cost-effective and less environmentally destructive means.  If the proposed road is built, destruction of pristine countryside would make Graham County a less appealing tourist destination.
 
Background
NC Department of Transportation website for this project is http://www.ncdot.gov/projects/US74Relocation/"http://www.ncdot.gov/projects/US74Relocation/ The umbrella organization of conservation groups is http://www.waysouth.org"www.waysouth.org

Corridor K is part of a network of highways planned by the Appalachian Regional Commission to increase economic development in areas of Appalachia without interstate highways.  Corridor K is planned to link Asheville with Chattanooga. NC Department of Transportation Description, Overview and Purpose The N.C. Department of Transportation is proposing to relocate US 74 from Robbinsville to Stecoah in Graham County. NCDOT is currently studying the B and C portions of the project, which include constructing a four-lane, divided highway from U.S. 129 in Robbinsville to N.C. 28 in Stecoah

Section A begins in Cherokee County with a proposed terminus in Andrews and extends north into Graham County with a proposed terminus in Robbinsville

Section D has already been constructed.  It begins in Stecoah and extends east into Swain County, terminating in Almond.

Right-of-way acquisition for the proposed project is scheduled for 2012 with construction of the B section scheduled to begin in 2014.  Estimated cost $383 million. NCDOT claims that the relocation of U.S. 74 would improve highway capacity and provide Graham County with a four-lane connection to Asheville and I-40.  It would also help support economic and social development in the county, and enhance safety. The proposed project is part of the Appalachian Development Highway System, which aims to foster economic development in the Appalachian region. 

According to NCDOT, relocating U.S. 74 would help support the local economy by helping maintain the tax base, attract manufacturing employers, increase accessibility to medical facilities, and making Graham County a more appealing tourist destination.

Appalachian Trail

The proposed relocation of US74 would cross the Appalachian Trail at Stecoah Gap.  The ATC is strongly opposed to construction of this new four-lane road, but if the road is built, wants tunnels as mitigation for the AT ATC does not want a road alternative that significantly alters Stecoah Gap, as this would create significant local negative impacts for the AT there. If this location were chosen for the 4-lane version, it would result in the highway being moved upslope a considerable distance with additional significant negative visual and auditory impacts to the AT for a number of miles in either direction from Stecoah Gap. An improved 2-lane version that crosses Stecoah Gap would, presumably, result in much less impact than a 4-lane version. 

Regional Director Morgan Sommerville stated in a letter to the NCDOT in 2008,
"The proposed US 74 Relocation will have significant negative impacts on the AT and its users.  As detailed in the DSFEIS, there will be significant changes in the viewshed as seen from the AT, for example from the overlooks on Cheoah Bald and the rock outcrops along the AT north of Stecoah Gap, which will greatly diminish the primitive experience the AT is intended to provide.  There will be significant negative impacts from vastly increased noise associated with construction of the new highway and the increased speed and volume of traffic once the road is complete.  There will be direct negative impacts on the AT and its users for approximately ten AT miles between Swim Bald and Brown Fork Gap. For these reasons, the ATC requests that the North Carolina DOT choose the Transportation Systems Management Alternative or The Mass Transit Alternative.   The AT qualifies for mitigation under The FHWA Section 4(f) Policy Paper (FHWA, 2005).  Should the NCDOT pick any alternative which includes construction of a new four-lane highway, ATC requests that the longest tunnels with the greatest grade separation from the A.T. be used to provide appropriate mitigation for the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in this project.  ATC requests that any alternative which may utilize the existing NC 143 route not involve widening or deepening the existing road cut, which would not provide appropriate Section 4(f) mitigation."

Figure  SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 1  - AT at Stecoah Gap

Figure  SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 2 Proposed Route of US 74 at Stecoah Gap

Bartram Trail

The Bartram Trail intersects the AT on Cheoah Bald.  Views from the outcrops on Cheoah Bald will be impacted, in addition to impacts to the Cheoah Bald Roadless Area.  The Cohutta-Big Frog Wilderness in Tennessee will also be impacted, but is not part of the current US 74 relocation.  

Levels of Service of Current Two-Lane Roads

Levels-of-service A through C are the desired levels, although LOS D is considered acceptable for urban facilities.  Level-of-service compares projected traffic volumes with capacity.  Projected speed and intersection delay are also included.  The table below comes from the NCDOT Draft Environmental Impact Statement.  The No-Build Alternative shows acceptable levels of service through 2030.  The “B&C” alternative is the current proposal to relocate US 74. 

LEVEL-OF-SERVICE FOR ROADWAY SEGMENTS (2030)
ROADWAY SEGMENT NO-BUILD B & C
US 129 (US 19/74 to SR 1260 C A
NC 143 (US 129 to NC 28) D A
NC 28 (NC 143 to US 19/74) A A

Transportation Systems Management (TSM) improvements involve increasing the available capacity of the facility within the existing right-of-way with minimum capital expenditures and without reconstructing the existing facility. Items such as the addition of turn lanes, striping, signing, signalization, and minor realignments are examples of TSM physical improvements. Traffic law enforcement, speed restrictions, access control and signal timing changes are examples of TSM operational improvements. NCDOT has eliminated the Transportation Systems Management Alternative and The Mass Transit Alternative as not feasible.


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