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A Push to Finish the Road to Nowhere

Peggy Medford explores an old graveyard on land her family once owned. In the 1940s, the federal government took her family's property, which now is part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Adam Hochberg, NPR
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Peggy Medford explores an old graveyard on land her family once owned. In the 1940s, the federal government took her family's property, which now is part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Barricades mark the end of North Carolina's so-called "Road to Nowhere." In the 1940s, the federal government promised to build a 30-mile road through the national park, but construction was suspended after only seven miles were completed.
Adam Hochberg, NPR /
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Barricades mark the end of North Carolina's so-called "Road to Nowhere." In the 1940s, the federal government promised to build a 30-mile road through the national park, but construction was suspended after only seven miles were completed.

In North Carolina, the National Park Service is trying to settle a dispute that dates back more than 60 years. In 1943, the government promised to build a highway through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park -- in part to provide access to some old cemeteries there. But the highway was never finished, and there's disagreement about whether it should be now.

For decades, families whose ancestors are buried in the park have pressured politicians to finish the "Road to Nowhere." And now, they have an advocate in Congress -- North Carolina Republican Charles Taylor, who's forced a new study of the issue. Taylor supports building a $600-million highway through the park to fulfill the 1943 promise.

But environmental groups say a highway would scar the landscape, destroy wildlife, and pollute the water and air.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Adam Hochberg
Based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Adam Hochberg reports on a broad range of issues in the Southeast. Since he joined NPR in 1995, Hochberg has traveled the region extensively, reporting on its changing economy, demographics, culture and politics. He also currently focuses on transportation. Hochberg covered the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, followed candidates in three Presidential elections and reported on more than a dozen hurricanes.