Friday, March 27, 2009

Cooling on the Garden Parkway?

The N.C. Turnpike Authority says it will release the final environmental documents for Gaston County's Garden Parkway in mid or late April. The authority also will make a recommendation for the expressway's route - a decision eagerly awaited throughout the county.

But N.C. Transportation Secretary Gene Conti - who also chair's the Turnpike Authority's Board of Directors - cautioned Friday that the parkway isn't a sure thing.

He said the project is extremely expensive - at least $1.2 billion - and the traffic forecasts don't project as many cars as the outerbelt in Raleigh or the Monroe Connector/Bypass, two other turnpike projects.

The parkway funding plan calls for much of the project to be paid for by tolls, and the rest to be paid for with a $35 million annual appropriation from the General Assembly. Conti warned Friday in a meeting with The Observer's editorial board that if the parkway doesn't produce enough toll revenue, "Then you would create a bigger (fiancial) gap." Conti is also chairman of the Turnpike Authority's Board of Directors.

If more money were needed, the DOT would have to pick up the tab.

Even with a one-time injection of stimulus dollars, the DOT doesn't have much money. Conti said that March contract lettings were about $15 million this year. Six years ago, he said the state was putting $100 million worth of work to bid in a month.

The parkway - scheduled to open in 2014 - is backed by a number of Gaston officials, who believe it will relieve congestion on Interstate 85 and tie the county closer economically to Charlotte.

But transportation experts have doubts. They have questioned whether the parkway money should instead go to other projects such as finishing Charlotte's outerbelt or widening I-77.

A Connecticut consultant hired by the N.C. Turnpike Authority wrote in 2006 that I-85 "traffic volumes were quite heavy, approaching the capacity of the facility ... . However, under 2006 conditions, relatively little congestion was found."

The consultant projects the parkway will carry about 40,000 cars a day at the Catawba crossing by 2030, and between 13,000 and 18,000 cars per day west of U.S. 321.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Do you have any information on the Monroe Bypass? Is it on schedule?

Kyle Merville said...

13,000 and 18,000 cars by 2030?! And we are honestly considering spending that amount of money on this project? That is a WASTE OF MONEY!

485 carries how many cars a day? 100,000? That's nearly 9X that of this new road which will have more lans that 485 in South Charlotte and will surely be a tool for sprawl into Gaston County.

Anonymous said...

Gaston County could use an economic boost though... but I agree.

Steve Harrison said...

The N.C. Turnpike Authority said lit will make its recommendation on the route for the Monroe Connector/Bypass by the end of next week. There are lots of variables in terms of the state's money-crunch, but the Monroe road is considered a high priority, and is on schedule as far as I know.

Anonymous said...

Hey,
What about the bypass in Shelby. They're going to bypass the bypass and then enventually probably bypass the bypass that bypassed the original bypass. There are better ways than bypasses!

Anonymous said...

Nobody cares about Shelby.

Anonymous said...

the people pushing for this waste of public money have a vested intrest. its the land. David H and others have bought up land in hopes of cashing in. there goal is to make an "inland island" it would be a sea of parking lots to transfer freight.

Anonymous said...

The parkway is a giant waste of money.

Might as well just add a few more lanes or HOV lane to I-85 if traffic to and from Gastonia is so bad. The outerbelt already gives access to southern Meck.

Anonymous said...

It's fabulous that we now have DOT Secretary with a brain that bases transportation decisions on data rather than political kickbacks. If Tippy were still around, this column would be about the building of the Fayetteville 295 bypass. Do something about 485 needing to a) be finished and b) be widened in the south and lets discuss I-77 NB through Lake Norman before heading out to nowheresville. Cngestion on 85 in Gaston is nonexistent, cut me a break.

Anonymous said...

Gaston County does need a parallel alternative to I-85 and U.S. 74 for the southern portion of the county. Yes, 485 helps Southern Meck, but not southern Gaston. And remember that 85 shrinks to two lanes after crossing the Catawba. It does get congested. Having an alternate route would help alleviate that.

Anonymous said...

We need to focus on getting the Piedmont & Northern Railroad running passenger service between Gastonia and Charlotte. People need to wake up and realize we are on the cusp of the post-oil era - the automobile is unsustainable and we must stop subsidizing it or it will kill us economically and environmentally.

Anonymous said...

Who cares about Gaston County. Might as well burn it all down anyways.

Anonymous said...

I-85 does not shrink to two lanes after crossing the Catawba River. It goes from four to three lanes.

Anonymous said...

The Garden Parkway, or whatever they plan to call it, needs to be built, period. I know that there are a lot of people who are against it, but I've come down I-85 one too many times trying to get home while southbound traffic is a quagmire. What makes things worse is that Wilkinson Boulevard is the ONLY alternate river crossing into Belmont. The next crossing is north on NC 27, and that puts you into Mount Holly.

If they don't build the Garden Parkway, then what needs to happen is the widening of Wilkinson Boulevard so that it is three lanes all the way from Charlotte to Gastonia. That includes replacing the aged bridges spanning the Catawba and South Fork rivers.

It's ridiculous to think that if something happens on I-85, there's no real suitable alternative.

Anonymous said...

Nobody cares about Shelby? Any idea how people drive from Asheville to Wilmington? You have to go through Columbia. Nope, not I-40; that takes even longer. You have to drive all the way through frickin' South Carolina since you can't drive west-east across this state without going through every traffic light infested small town along the way. Not to mention how much is lost in gas taxes when you have to drive 250 miles through another state to get to the other side of your own. The Shelby bypass is a much more important STATEWIDE need than finishing I-485 will ever be. And you people whine about Raleigh and Fayetteville.

Panix said...

In 1999, a construciton company based in Alabama offered to build and run the the Garden PKWY. As a private venture, they do ot make money until the road is built, so they said the bulk of the project, once the right of way was obtained would be 11 months, Including the construction of two bridges over the South Fork, and Catawba.

Toll roads are opposed by most of the eastern state representatives, in particular Mark Basnight, and much of the delay was in their refusal to back a quick build program.

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve, can you figure out if the NCDOT ever plans on updating the signs for 485 at the I-77 interchange in South Charlotte? Some are still blank, some say east/west the other says inner/outer (one even says east/pineville and inner/blank!) and it makes no sense and it looks bad. I think it's time for them to update and finish the signs! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I recently heard that Senator Hoyle doesn't want the Garden Parkway to be approved while he is in office because it will look bad for him. Well I don't want it ever!! But, I also don't want the possibility of the route to go on forever, because it is hurting people who want to sell their property where there is the chance that the road will cross or go beside of their property. In other words make a decision one way or the other!!

Anonymous said...

I travel from Gaston to uptown Charlotte and back every day - during rush hours both ways. I moved here from south Charlotte (off Highway 51) and I must say, the traffic is not bad at all - especially compared to the south Charlotte issues. I rarely hit a slow down on the interstate (unless there is an accident) and for those times when it does look backed up, then I can easily get off 85 and take Wilkinson without any issue.

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