Time for Promoters to Stop Wasting Tax Dollars

Tell officials to "Throw in the towel already"

The Garden Parkway toll road received yet another body blow March 13 when Federal Judge Dever ruled the North Carolina Department of Transportation hopelessly mangled the federally required environmental impact studies. Judge Dever's ruling was widely expected by all but the toll road's most blind promoters. The Southern Environmental Law Center brought the case on behalf of clear eyed citizens at the Catawba River Keeper Foundation and Clean Air Carolina who saw through the colossally wasteful $1 billion boondoggle.

Judge Dever's decision means that before any work can begin on the toll road to nowhere the NCDOT must redo the blundered studies that took five years to prepare. It is possible that NCDOT will be pressured by well-connected developers to waste even more taxpayer dollars on a desperate appeal to set aside Judge Dever's decision. But it was precisely the same type of errors that led a conservative panel of the Fourth Circuit in 2012 to strike down the environmental impact studies prepared for the Monroe Bypass. Judge Dever was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush and had close ties to Senator Jesse Helms.

The Garden Parkway is beginning to resemble a battered boxer with both eyes swollen shut in the 12th round, just waiting for someone to mercifully throw in the towel. The state legislature, led by Sen. Kathy Harrington and Rep. Dana Bumgardner, has now eliminated all the special interest funding that six years ago made construction look imminent. Last December, objective scoring criteria ranked the Garden Parkway so dismally that it was dropped completely from the State Transportation Improvement Plan. Proving once again the Garden Parkway is the toll road to nowhere.

Graphic by  Gaston Gazette

For years, long-time supporter County Commissioner Joe Carpenter kept the Garden Parkway on life support by manipulating the local Metropolitan Planning Organization from adding important projects that would take funding away from the two lane country toll road. Among his maneuverings - keeping the urgently needed widening of I-85 off the local list of transportation projects. But last year wise efforts by other members of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, like Gastonia City Council members Todd Piercall and Dave Kirlin, along with support from Lincoln and Cleveland County's representatives, finally got the widening of I-85 between exits 10 and 26 added to the local list of needed transportation projects.

Now, for the first time, widening Gaston County's section of I-85 is in the ten year state transportation plan, which is due to be made final later this year. County Commissioner Joe Carpenter, who owns property along the route of the nearly dead Garden Parkway, still says it would be a mistake to widen I-85 - which connects Gaston businesses to the BMW plant in the Greenville-Spartanburg area and commuters to Charlotte - ahead of the Garden Parkway. "To me, it's not good judgement. It's not going to be good for this region or the state to do that," Carpenter told WSOC reporter Ken Lemon. But thanks to the hard grass roots efforts of Gaston County's everyday citizens, Governor McCrory has heard what the citizens of Gaston County have known for years - I-85 is the economic artery that connects the entire southeast and the Garden Parkway is a toll road no one wants and nobody will use - a toll road to nowhere.

The State Transportation Implementation Plan for the first time has (a) deleted the toll road to nowhere and it has also (b) included widening I-85. If a project is in the plan, it's likely that it will get built. Not in the plan - won't get built.

The fight really is coming to an end, though there are still a few loose ends to tie up before it is completely, unequivocally, undeniably, dead. The Garden Parkway is still listed on the local transportation plan. Its defenders - like Commissioner Carpenter - have said that deleting the punch drunk Garden Parkway from the local plan would jeopardize the area air conformity plan and some $22 million in federal funds. But that is all changed, now that Judge Dever has set aside the environmental impact studies and the Record of Decision they supported.

Now is the time to call members of the Metropolitan Planning Organization and ask them to delete the toll road to nowhere from the local Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Plan. Click here to see the members of the MPO. And tell them it's time to throw in the towel on the Garden Parkway.

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