Gastonia officials reject Garden Parkway

Dec 15, 2009

Elected officials in Gastonia are taking a stand against the proposed Garden Parkway toll road. Instead, they say the money should go toward I-485 and commuter rail. WFAE's Julie Rose reports: The Garden Parkway is meant to help Gaston County residents commute more easily to Charlotte. It would start at I-485 south of the airport and run west through Gaston County up to I-85 at Bessemer City Road. The state has already spent $10 million planning for the proposed toll road. But Tuesday night, the Gaston City Council is expected to adopt a resolution opposite it. City Manager Jim Palenick says going ahead with the parkway is too risky. "You will not be able to sell that type of a bond in this type of a market currently, when the tolls being produced are speculative, when a similar kind of project down in Greenville, South Carolina currently is bankrupt," says Palenick. "All those call into question 'Can you really sell this?' If you can't, why not be thinking in advance about where you can better use these type of funds?" Palenick says having a half-built Garden Parkway would be worse than none at all, because it would dump heavy truck traffic into residential neighborhoods and potentially worsen the region's poor air quality. Palenick says Gaston City officials also worry the proposed route would divert customers and, "suck the life out of some of our retail areas - in particular, our center city." The state has already set aside $35million a year for 39 years to help build the Garden Parkway. The Gaston City Council would rather see that money spent finishing I-485, building commuter rail from Gastonia to Charlotte and updating I-85. But it's the legislature - not the Gaston City Council - that controls the money. So Palenick says the city is reaching out to Charlotte-Mecklenburg with this message: "We recognize your biggest problem. How about if we help you solve it and in turn you help us solve some problems? If we join forces, maybe people will listen to us. Maybe the legislature will make a farsighted visionary approach to this."