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Remember the ill-fated Garden Parkway? It has now "evolved" to the Catawba Crossings

Years ago, when we were a little more newsier at this site, one of the projects I followed for a while in North Carolina was the Garden Parkway.  The Parkway was a toll road project aimed at providing traffic relief to Interstate 85 and US 321 west of Charlotte.  It had been kicked around for a few decades, along with other names, before being revived with the creation of the North Carolina Turnpike Authority in 2002.  

For about a decade, the proposed highway met a lot of local and environmental opposition.  The proposed highway died a quiet death - although postcards were mailed out - in 2016.

Yet, like many projects here and elsewhere, someone else comes along, dusts off the old plans, modifies things a bit, and gives it a new name.  Now, the Garden Parkway, the successor of the Gaston East-West Connector, has been reborn again as the new Catawba Crossings project.  And it has evolved into a shorter, leaner, and toll-free version.

The proposed routing of the Catawba Crossings Project. (Catawba Crossings)

The new version is only six miles versus the previously proposed 22-mile length.  It is a boulevard design with a maximum of 45 miles per hour compared to the full-freeway 65 mph predecessor.   It'll run from Interstate 485 at West Boulevard (Exit 6) just south of the Charlotte Douglas International Airport then run west over the Catawba River and South Fork River into Gaston County before terminating at NC 279/South New Hope Road about five miles south of Belmont.

The project is currently in the public comment period followed by a feasibility study that should be completed later in 2022.  If it can get approval from local governmental planning organizations, the project would become eligible for future funding within NCDOT's structure.  One possible scenario is that the highway could open in 2038.  However, specifics towards costs and a timeline are vague at the present time.

The project also will face similar opposition and environmental hurdles as its predecessors did.  The Southern Environmental Law Center has already voiced its opposition to the project.  Local opposition 15 years ago focused heavily on the tolls and viability of such a project. Current concerns are focused on the nearby area's ability to handle additional traffic.  This includes requesting that NC 279 and other nearby roads be widened to four lanes.

I've added the project to my google news alerts - and try to keep following it.  It's a long way before anything happens.  Besides, I have been telling the others that I wanted some good newsier topics to follow.

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