- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2007

BRYSON CITY, N.C. (AP) — A National Park Service study has found that a long-debated road through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park would not put the park in violation of air quality standards.

Park Service officials say they are still not sure which alternative to pursue. “All it means is all the decisions are still possible,” said Smokies spokesman Bob Miller.

Because poor air quality in the Smokies sometimes triggers health alerts, projects must meet federal standards. But the National Park Service study found that although the road would increase the volume of emissions in the future, cleaner vehicles will keep down pollutants.

Opponents said the road would harm one of the wildest areas in the Eastern United States. An environmental impact statement released by the park service last year estimated that finishing the road could cost up to $600 million.

The so-called “Road to Nowhere” would replace a state highway flooded by construction of Fontana Dam in the 1940s and was part of a 1943 agreement between North Carolina and the federal government. Only seven miles of the proposed 42 miles were built before high costs and environmental concerns halted work in 1972.

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