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Garden Parkway Opponents Compare Gaston Toll Road to Greenville SC's Southern Connector

This is an interesting point that the opponents of the Garden Parkway are making. Does it carry any weight though?

Opponents of the Garden Parkway - the NCTA project that runs through southern and western Gaston County - are using a South Carolina Toll Road as an example of a 'sure thing' toll road that hasn't lived up to expectations and promises.

The troubled Southern Connector (aka Toll I-185) in Greenville, SC opened earlier this decade as a missing link in Greenville's transportation network. The highway afforded motorists the ability to bypass congestted areas of I-85 in the Greenville area.

However, the Southern Connector more often than not sits empty. In fact, vehicular traffic is half than expected, and unless debt refinancing takes place the whole project is scheduled to go into default this coming January. Currently, the roadway handles about 8,000 vehicles a day. Over the past few years, the Connector has been using its reserves to pay off debt.

Opponents of the Garden Parkway have been pointing to the struggling South Carolina Highway as an example of what they believe will be similar results for the North Carolina Toll Road. They see traffic projections and as a result revenues falling short causing the state to scrounge around to cover bad debts.

This, opponents say, is in addition to the annual $35 million the state will pay in 'gap funding' to build the Garden Parkway over the next 40 years. "If a toll road can't pay for itself - why build it?" seems to be the logic of those against the highway.

Supporters and NCTA officials obviously see otherwise. First, they point out to the differences in the size of the Greenville and Charlotte Metro Areas. Greenville's metro population is 625,000 which is significantly smaller than Charlotte's metro population which is about 1.7 million. They also point to more detailed studies and surveys supproting growth in the Charlotte area and specifically Gaston County.

Finally, the NCTA points out that since some of the financing for North Carolina Toll Projects, including the Garden Parkway, are backed by tax dollars - the tolls don't have to cover all the bills.

Story Links:
Millions already spent on parkway ---Gaston Gazette
Public might not warm to toll roads ---Mooresville Tribune

Commentary:

This is an interesting point - and the financial struggles of the Southern Connector makes it more so. With doubt statewide on the ability to finance the toll roads- let along the viability and need for some of these highways - arguments like this one have a lot of validity.

The Garden Parkway has had a controversial history - and throw in a bridge over the Catawba River - an expensive one too. Original plans for the highway carried the road north of I-85 to connecting with US 321 between Dallas and Lincolnton - effectively a US 321 bypass. However, the section north of I-85 seems to have been removed from any plans.

As Gaston County grows, Interstate 85 will only become more gridlocked. But with I-485, along with most of the county's close proximity to this road, travel to the airport and various points around Metro Charlotte is not that difficult.

The truth of the matter is that a US 321 Gastonia bypass (which doesn't need to be tolled) is more needed than a Southern Gaston County Freeway that runs to Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Espescially one that will be tolled and parallel to Interstate 85 five to eight miles further south.

Comments

Brian said…
The fact is that any road that won't serve much of a purpose shouldn't be built, especially ones financed by bonds.
I didn't realize that the Southern Connector was in that bad of shape financially, but then again, the few times I've passed it during my I-85 travels, I don't ever remember seeing a lot of folks getting onto it. Seems like piss-poor planning on SCDOT's part.
Anonymous said…
Great idea, lets not build the GP. At the very least, toll the Catawba River bridge to/from Mecklenburg County as the primary source of revenue. As if the road never gets built because of fears with the SoConn in Greenville County, Gastonian residents will choke in their own carbon monoxide stuck in a jam on I-85 and Wilkenson Boulevard. There are no viable east-west roads in southern Gaston County. Folks who live by the state line in Clover and Lake Wylie are left with limited choices with either NC/SC 49 or NC 273 (or backtrack to I-77 even). Dont be a bunch of NIMBYs. The road may initially not do well but it will overtime. The SoConn connector did not make any sense since it did not go anywhere for most travelers. The GP on the other hand does for the local residents of southern Gaston Co and provides a good alternative for I-85 interregional travel and US 74 travel from Monroe to Shelby.
Sierra Roberts said…
Yeah I wish anonymous was brave enough to leave their name after such terrible comments. Gastonians will choke on their own carbon monoxide? If you were really environmentally concerned you would read the EPA's negative report on this proposed road. Also, the road will destroy much of the ecological habitation surrounding the southern Gaston County area, but I'm guessing they aren't trying to put a bulldozer through your property.

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