BUMGARDNER AND HARRINGTON:

“Stop Funding Garden Parkway”


DOT SAYS TAKE POLITICS OUT OF OUR ROADS

CHAMBER AND CRONIES HIRE PROFESSIONAL LOBBYISTS

Rep. Dana Bumgardner, who beat the Garden Parkway pick last fall with 65% of the vote, has filed a bill to kill dead the billion dollar toll road to nowhere. Click here to read the story in the Charlotte Observer.

Over in the Senate, Bill Rabon, who co-chairs the Sen. Transportation Committee with Gaston County’s Sen. Kathy Harrington, also is trying to eliminate the political favoritism that first put funding in place for the toll road to nowhere. If Rabon’s bill passes, the Garden Parkway would have to compete with the many other much more important road projects, like widening I-85, that are absolutely essential to North Carolina’s economic development.

Sen Rabon’s amendment to HB 10 takes the politically earmarked $35 million for 40 years away from the Garden Parkway and puts it into the Mobility Fund where it belongs, to be used for projects that are needed throughout the state. The toll road to nowhere had special status funding because developers who had made secret investments along the route used their political connections to get the special funding. Once the Garden Parkway is thrown into the mix for general highway money, it is such a low priority that the project will never be built.

State Transportation Secretary Tony Tata wrote a letter to top legislative leaders in mid-March also asking them to take the politics out of funding the Garden Parkway and two other toll projects. Tata said in his letter that all projects should compete for funding through the state's data-driven prioritization process.

Parkway supporters are really running scared. They have hired the same professional lobbyist that represents toll operators, McGuire Woods. McGuire Woods is trying to convince the newest legislators that Gaston County supports the billion dollar boondoggle, even though polls and the voters consistently confirm 70% of Gaston County is opposed to the toll road to nowhere.

“Politicians have no business dictating which projects should and should not be built to suit their own interests. Those decisions should be made by professionals with input from local leaders in an open and transparent way, “ Sen. Rabon said.

"While Bumgardner’s bill would be best, Rabon’s would do just nicely.

Investigation by the Charlotte Observer and the Gaston Gazette found that substantial land purchases at proposed intersections were made by then-elected officials and other politically well-connected individuals before the route became public. Over 7,000 people signed a petition against the toll road to nowhere, and the voters – without regard to political party -- have spoken overwhelmingly and consistently against this piece of political graft.

For five years, Gaston County citizens have thrown a light on the waste and abuse that is the Garden Parkway. You pointed out the studies by the Turnpike Authority that showed the toll road would divert jobs away from Gaston County’s I-85 corridor and into South Carolina. Another Turnpike Authority report stated the $1 billion toll road wouldn’t even relieve congestion on I-85. Alarmed, supporters paid $35,000 for an economist’s report promising gobs of jobs, but that Connaughton report read like propaganda and has been roundly criticized by parties that include the Federal Highway Administration. Trucks would have to pay $15 to $22 in tolls even though 6 of the 22 miles of Garden Parkway will actually be an undivided two lane country road. No trucker will pay that kind of money to drive on a back country road and get stuck behind a slow moving school bus. The Turnpike Authority has no credibility, so much so that last summer the federal government denied federal loans for the Garden Parkway toll road for the third year in a row.

In a nutshell, the highly paid toll road lobbyist is trying to convince state legislators that they should pony up $35 million a year for 40 years for a $1 billion project that Gaston County does not want, will make congestion worse, take jobs away from the county. In fact, I-85 can be widened for far less than the $1 billion Garden Parkway, but county leaders like Commissioner Joe Carpenter have too much tied up in the toll road to nowhere to put the more important I-85 widening on the list of priority projects.

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