February 2010: NCTA Announces Enhancements to the Garden Parkway Construction Plan and Route

In response to comments received during the 2009 public hearings, the NC Turnpike Authority (NCTA) released an update to the Garden Parkway plan on February 25, 2010. Click HERE to download a copy. This update offers numerous enhancements, including:

  • Completion of the project in one phase, from I-485 in Mecklenburg County to I-85 in Gaston County, rather than building the road in two phases with an uncertain completion date.
  • Reduction in the overall project cost by approximately $350 million.
  • Elimination of several interchanges and significant changes to others, resulting in less overall property impact and preservation of local assets such as the Belmont Optimist's Ball Fields and the Carolina Speedway.

In May, 2009, the (NCTA) released the Draft Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for the Garden Parkway. This document is available for downloading at the NCTA Garden Parkway EIS Page. It contains extensive details about the project along with the recommended alternative route. In November 2009, this recommended route was upgraded to "Preferred Alternative" after public comments from the EIS were taken into consideration.

A Difficult Task and a Job Well Done

The Gaston Southeast Connector Coalition (SECC) would like to recognize and thank the NCTA for their exhaustive efforts in preparing the Draft EIS, and their many efforts since then. Throughout the process, members of the NCTA team made it very clear to everyone, including us, that the selection of a recommended route would be based on available facts rather than politics or lobbying. It appears to us they were true to their words. After reviewing the EIS, we agree with the NCTA's recommendation of Alternative #9. We can clearly see where the NCTA, along with the NCDOT and USFHA, weighed each of the criteria in an unbiased, fact-based manner before arriving at a recommendation. While each of the final 12 alternative routes would result in an array of human and environmental consequences, #9 has the least overall impact, and for that reason, it is the best choice moving forward.

On projects as complex and far-reaching as this one, we believe it is important to maintain objectivity when evaluating the facts. While the environmental and human impacts of the Garden Parkway are undeniable, so too are the transportation benefits and economic development it promises. Gaston County has suffered greatly as a result of textiles moving offshore and the global recession. While the Parkway can't turn the clock back, it does offer the possibility to bring new growth and vitality to the county.

And finally, at a time when aspiring politicians may be tempted to discredit the project or the recommended route for personal gain, we request honesty and integrity. Thousands of research hours by the NCTA clearly demonstrates that DSA9 has the lowest overall impact. And the process of selecting the 100+ routes originally evaluated by the NCTA has been thoroughly reviewed by the State of NC for any conflicts of interest or ethics violations. In our opinion, for any politician to suggest otherwise is both a misrepresentation of the facts on the ground, and a disservice to the citizens of Gaston County.