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No Road to Nowhere: Feds to Pay $52 Million to not Build Road

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on February 03, 2010 11:45 AM

On Tuesday, the federal government agreed to a settlement worth $52 million to escape commitments to complete the "road to nowhere" project in a wilderness area of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, in North Carolina.

According to the Washington Post, the original agreement that prompted the great payout was a 1943 pact to build a 30 mile stretch of road along the Tennessee border. The road was intended to replace a highway flooded by the construction of a dam, which was necessary to increase electricity production needed for the war effort.

Representative Heath Shuler told the Post, that it has been clear for a long time that the 7 mile ribbon of road would never be completed. The road currently dead-ends just inside the national park, west of Bryson City.

Families who lost homes due to the original road project are not necessarily mollified by the money promised to the Swain County coffers, even though the amount is four times the county's annual budget. David Monteith, 63, an area county commissioner had family displaced by the project. "We were promised a road. It's what we deserve," Monteith said. The families are primarily concerned with access to local family cemeteries.

However, Shuler assured the Post that the Park Service will continue to provide access to the cemeteries. In addition, the valuable wilderness areas of the park will now be allowed to stay wild, preserving them for future generations.

The Post reports that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will be in North Carolina on Saturday to sign the settlement agreement.  

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