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LAKE WYLIE --
It’s a North Carolina decision on a North Carolina parkway, but it’s bound for a Lake Wylie impact, too.
Voices for and against the Garden Parkway ratcheted up discussion again heading into primary day in North Carolina, just months ahead of the next major steps toward finalizing the toll road from Gastonia to the airport in Charlotte.
In March, both the Gaston Regional and Montcross chambers of commerce endorsed the project. Limited river crossings constraining travel between Gaston and Mecklenburg counties limits overall economic growth, they stated. The chambers also projected about 18,000 jobs in Gaston County during the next 25 years, and more than 2,000 jobs during construction.
“The parkway will link southern Gaston to the booming airport area in Charlotte and enable Gaston County to participate in the job growth our neighbors across the river have enjoyed for decades,” said Ted Hall, president of the Montcross Area Chamber of Commerce, which includes more than 330 Belmont area businesses.
Yet not everyone is sold. Online citizen group stopthetollroad.com continues its opposition of the project, recently forming a political action committee. They’ve called for pledges from local and state candidates, listing stances on the toll road online heading into the May 8 primaries. The group claims that 64-77 percent of Gaston County residents oppose the road.
“We are also mailing flyers and making phone calls to let voters know which candidates oppose the project,” Marion Beach, group treasurer, said last week. “The toll road is not a done deal.”
A point that isn’t being argued is York County will be affected if the new road is built. Opponents point to North Carolina Turnpike Authority material from earlier planning stages saying about 600 jobs would be created below the state line rather than above it. Last week, the Charlotte Observer reported a Federal Highway Administration official “dismissed” the study cited by chambers of commerce and television commercials claiming that most of the economic impact would come to North Carolina.
Plus, there’s the issue of infrastructure.
Before last year’s Pennies for Progress vote, which approved a one-cent sales tax in York County to fund 52 miles of road construction at $161 million, project engineer Phil Leazer said the Garden Parkway would alleviate congestion by providing another route for Gaston County traffic to get to Charlotte. It also would allow York County residents another direct access to the airport in Charlotte, he said.
“This has the capabilities of being a huge transportation improvement for the entire area,” Leazer said.
Leazer also spoke of a need to have York County roads in place when the parkway opens. Of the 25 projects on last year’s Pennies vote, the most expensive was a more than $25 million improvement to create a five-lane roadway on Pole Branch Road to the North Carolina line. The 2.4-mile project is the most direct route from Lake Wylie to where the Garden Parkway would be built.
Current plans for the 21.9-mile parkway are to approve construction permits and financing plans this summer, and begin land acquisition later this year. Construction should begin mid-2013 with the road opening in 2015.