U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander and 16 congressional colleagues today released a joint letter urging Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to stop work on the $600 million ‘Road to Nowhere’ through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and provide a compensatory cash payment to Swain County, NC.
“Considering the significant environmental and economic costs associated with building the North Shore Road, the so-called “Road to Nowhere” through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Interior Department should begin immediately to work with Congress to instead provide a cash settlement to Swain County,” Alexander said. “The United States made a commitment to Swain County in 1943, when we flooded a highway for the construction of the Fontana Dam. But there is no obligation to satisfy that commitment to compensation by building another road.”
A road through the Park would damage the largest and most pristine wilderness area in the eastern United States and cost at least $600 million, more than 75 times the annual roads budget of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Alexander noted, adding that “a good highway already exists outside the Park between Bryson City and Fontana.”
A cash settlement is supported by the Swain County Commission and the governors of North Carolina and Tennessee, as well as the letter’s signatories among the members of the North Carolina and Tennessee congressional delegations.
Alexander sits on the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee.
Other signatories of the letter are: Senators Elizabeth Dole and Bob Corker, and Congressmen Heath Shuler, David Davis, G.K Butterfield, Zach Wamp, Bob Etheridge, Lincoln Davis, Walter Jones, Bart Gordon, Mike McIntyre, Jim Cooper, Brad Miller, John Tanner, David Price, and Steve Cohen.