APEX, N.C. (WTVD) -- This week's announcement on the Complete 540 project is tremendous news for the thousands of commuters eager to relieve congestion on the roads, but the progress also means the coming displacement of those who either own businesses or homes in future highway's path.
Complete 540, known more formally as the Triangle Expressway Southeast Extension, is the final stretch of highway connecting the Triangle Expressway and US 64, thereby completing the outer circle of highway around Raleigh. The latest proposed route is now on its way to becoming reality, thanks to recent approval by the federal government.
"We are excited to hit this milestone for a project that has been a priority for the local communities, metropolitan planning organization, and regional business community," said North Carolina Turnpike Authority Executive Director Beau Memory. "This is a critical step in advancing a project that has received nearly 30 local resolutions of support calling for the completion of the 540 outer loop."
Acquiring the land
Before shovels can hit the ground, however, the NCDOT must now start acquiring the land -- 1,825 acres -- to build the highway.
That means 209 residences, 5 business and 3 non-profit organizations must move.
An NCDOT brochure offers general details of the program, which covers everything from the appraisal process to vacating notices to reimbursing relocation expenses.
"When property is selected to be acquired, all other alternatives have been considered and it has been determined that the affected site is the best location for the transportation artery," the brochure reads. "The NCDOT seeks your understanding and cooperation in this matter."
Options for businesses, homeowners
Business and homeowners essentially have two options: work amicably with the NCDOT or settle in the courtroom through condemnation proceedings. According to the DOT, each property owner works with a Right of Way Agent which is the property owner's direct contact at the DOT. The process starts with an appraisal and a written offer to purchase.
If the property owner accepts the written offer, payment is completed within two to six weeks. Additionally, the property owner is not liable for any real estate commissions, title insurance, abstract costs or legal fees.
As the project moves from planning to construction, the NCDOT will give the (former) property owner a 90-day notice to vacate the property. In many cases, as well, there are relocation benefits for families moving within a 50 mile radius.
In addition to acquiring land for the actual highway, NCDOT must also purchase real estate to build 13 interchanges for controlled access: NC-55 Bypass, Holly Springs Road, Bells Lake Road, US 401, Old Stage Road, NC-50, I-40/Clayton Bypass, White Oak Road, US-70 Business, Rock Quarry Road, Auburn-Knightdale, Poole Road, and US-64.
The estimated cost for Complete 540 is $2.2 billion; when completed, drivers will have to pay tolls to access the highway. The project's first phase is anticipated to open in 2023.