GASTONIA, N.C. – A Gaston County lawmaker wants to slam the brakes on the long-planned Garden Parkway road project.
This week, new state Rep. Dana Bumgardner introduced his first bill to repeal all future state funding for the planned 22-mile toll road in Gaston and Mecklenburg Counties.
“I started working on this when I got there,” Bumgardner said. “This has been very contentious and divisive for a long time in Gaston County and we need some closure on it."
The Garden Parkway toll road would be an alternative to Interstate 85. It would roll from Gastonia to near Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, cutting through land in Belmont.
Bumgardner believes the project is pointless and says state funds should be rerouted from the parkway to widening I-85 and improving existing roads.
"South Point Road, New Hope Road, we have a lot of issues in Gaston County that have not been getting the attention they deserve,” said Bumgardner.
“It's disappointing that that was filed, but we're still optimistic that this project will happen,” said John Kimbrell, president and CEO of the Gaston Regional Chamber, a longtime supporter of the Garden Parkway. "We believe that the Garden Parkway is vital for North Carolina, good for business, and it will stand on its own accord and will be built on its own accord."
Supporters of the toll road say the bill would irresponsibly take future dollars already pledged to the Garden Parkway and undermine more than $20 million already invested.
"[I'd] hate to see that money go to waste. We've done studies on this, the economic impact of this, traffic flow, what's going on in Charlotte, the airport. Gaston County needs to be linked to that," Kimbrell said.
Bumgardner said House Bill 134 will go through committee next week and he expects it will pass both the House and Senate in the coming weeks.
The North Carolina Turnpike Authority estimates the Garden Parkway would save drivers up to 28 minutes compared to traveling the same distance on I-85.
Several groups are challenging the project's environmental study. That litigation is still pending.