GASTONIA, N.C. -- A toll road that, depending on who you talked to, would/would not have relieved congestion on Interstate 85 could be killed off.
State Rep. Dana Bumgardner (R-Gaston) filed a bill in the state house Wednesday (H134) that would effectively choke off the $35 million in Turnpike Authority funding for the Garden Parkway, a 22-mile toll road that would run from I-85 west of Gastonia to I-485 near Charlotte Douglas International Airport. He also wants no further money spent on it.
“It’s obvious why I filed it,” Bumgardner said by phone. “I think [the parkway] has many flaws.”
Opponents say paying $1 billion for a new road won’t actually get rid of congestion on I-85.
“Every afternoon, I-85 backs up past I-485, and when the loop is finished it’s going to get worse, not better,” Bumgardner said. He’d rather see transportation money spent on widening I-85 in Gaston County and on fixing up the interchange at Highway 321.
The Gaston County Chamber of Commerce says the road would create 18,000 jobs within the next 25 years and make Gaston County less isolated.
“Our position on the Garden Parkway has not changed,” said Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO John Kimbrell. “ We want this to get out of the political arena and let the transportation engineers make the decisions on our transportation." Kimbrell said the bill takes millions of dollars out of Gaston County. He wasn't sure if the bill would kill the parkway if it passes, but it would lead to another delay.
The Garden Parkway is pretty much on hold anyway. Nothing much has happened since the Southern Environmental Law Center filed a lawsuit last August, saying the environmental studies behind the road were flawed. The Catawba Riverkeeper said the parkway and resulting sprawl would increase pollution in Lake Wylie.
Bumgardner says property owners along the proposed route are in limbo because the road is in limbo.
“I look at this as giving the voters of Gaston County the closure they’ve asked for, and saving the state a lot of money,” he said.