Sen. Alexander Says Stopping ‘Road to Nowhere’ Would Be Good Christmas Present For Tennessee

Urges New Park Service Director to Abandon Construction Plans

Posted on December 23, 2006

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) announced he has written new National Park Service Director Mary Bomar saying that a good Christmas present for the people of Tennessee would be a Park Service decision to abandon plans for the proposed $600 million North Shore Road, also known as the “Road to Nowhere,” through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “The proposed road would be a stupendous waste of taxpayer dollars – costing at least 75 times the annual roads budget for the Smokies – and would be an environmental disaster, tearing up slopes and streams in one of the largest wilderness areas in the United States,” Alexander said. “Common sense, as the elected Swain County Commissioners and the governors of Tennessee and North Carolina have said, suggests a cash settlement instead.” In February, Alexander wrote U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Gale Norton opposing the road in response to a draft Environmental Impact Statement issued by the National Park Service. The Park Service is now in the process of writing the final Environmental Impact Statement on the North Shore Road project which will include the agency’s preferred alternative regarding the future of the project. December 21, 2006 The Honorable Mary A. Bomar Director National Park Service 1849 C Street NW Washington, D.C. 20240 Dear Director Bomar, I am writing to suggest that a good Christmas present for the people of Tennessee and North Carolina would be a National Park Service decision to abandon the proposed $600 million "Road to Nowhere" through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Environmental Impact Statement review for this proposed road is near a conclusion. Now is the time to bring this dispute – which has lasted since World War II – to an end. There is surely a federal obligation to the people of Swain County, North Carolina, but the U.S. Supreme Court has said there is no legal requirement to satisfy it by building this road. Common sense, as the elected Swain County Commissioners and the governors of Tennessee and North Carolina have said, suggests a cash settlement instead. The proposed road would be a stupendous waste of taxpayer dollars – costing at least 75 times the annual roads budget for the Smokies – and it would be an environmental disaster, tearing up slopes and streams in one of the largest wilderness areas of the eastern United States. I have opposed this road since 1984 when, as governor, I hiked the Forney Creek area of the Park where the road would be built. I reported what I had seen to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, on which I now serve. I have not changed my mind. I am enclosing my February 2006 letter to former Interior Secretary Gale Norton that further outlines my opposition to the road. I urge you to brighten this Holiday Season by making the decision to abandon this ill-advised road so that we can begin to work together on an appropriate cash settlement for Swain County. Sincerely, Lamar Alexander United States Senate Enclosure cc: The Honorable Dirk Kempthorne The Honorable Phil Bredesen Members of the Tennessee Congressional delegation