The Gastonia City Council Tuesday night unanimously approved, with two members absent, a resolution in support of widening a 16-mile stretch of I-85 in Gaston County. But, the I-85 project could end up competing for funding with the proposed Garden Parkway.
The plan would widen I-85 to four lanes each way from exit 26 in Belmont to the US 74 interchange at exit 10, near Crowder’s Mountain.
Gastonia City Councilman Jim Gallagher says everyone on the Council is on board, "because we’ve all experienced 85 coming back from Charlotte, and it seems to be a no-brainer type of resolution. It’s not just us, the people of Gaston County would love to see that, and it should’ve been done years ago.”
The idea to widen I-85 was proposed by three state Representatives from Gaston County, Dana Bumgardner, John Torbett, and Kelly Hastings. The Republicans were elected last year in part because of their opposition to the controversial Garden Parkway, a proposed toll road with a billion dollar price tag. The Parkway would link the southern part of Gaston County with I-485 to the east and I-85 and US 74 to the west. The legislature refused to approve funding for it this year.
Widening I-85 would cost about half as much as the Parkway, and it would not become a toll road. Representative Bumgardner says that alone might make the plan more palatable to taxpayers.
But the Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce still supports the Parkway, as does Councilman Gallagher.
“We need both roads," he says. "I know the state legislature doesn’t want to hear that; Raleigh doesn’t want to hear that; the federal government doesn’t want to hear that.”
The Garden Parkway must now compete with other highway projects---including the proposed widening of I-85---under a new formula supported by Governor McCrory. The plan awards road money based on a project’s potential economic impact.