GASTONIA, N.C. — The North Carolina Turnpike Authority announced plans Friday to move forward with the proposed northern route for the 21.9-mile Garden Parkway project that will connect I-485 near Berewick in Mecklenburg County to I-85 in western Gaston County.
The decision — made by the turnpike authority, state department of transportation and federal highway authority — was made after the Environmental Impact Study was released Thursday. “What we’re talking about is a recommended alternative,” said project engineer Steve DeWitt. “We believe this corridor is the place this project will be built, but the process has a long way to go. Things could change.”
Public meetings on the $1.18-$1.42 billion project were held in 2003, 2006 and 2008 and drew interest of many landowners and residents, with many in the area opposing a proposed southern route that would run near Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden and cut through the Paradise Point neighborhood. Instead, the recommended route runs north on the Belmont peninsula, heads south west of the Stowe gardens until heading north again at Bud Wilson Road.
Gaston County Regional Covekeeper C.D. Collins was relieved by the decision.
"This is the route the Catawba Riverkeeper and I discussed years ago, and it's much less damaging to the environment," he said Friday afternoon. "That was our goal along to make the smallest impact as we could."
Belmont Mayor Richard Boyce said the decision is a victory for some in Belmont, but not everyone. Belmont recommended a middle route along its peninsula, one that was dismissed because of problems crossing near Allen Steam Plant.
“We didn’t weigh in on the northern route vs. the southern route, because the northern route starts to encroach on the city itself and the southern route would impact many more established neighborhoods,” Boyce said.
Look for more information in next week's Lake Wylie Pilot.