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Garden Parkway, Steele Creek Road Widening on Long Range Road Plans

(February 23, 2008) Area transportation planners have identified future road needs, and two major projects are in Steele Creek. Unfortunately, neither project is on the immediate horizon.

The widening of Steele Creek Road (Highway 160) from I-485 to the South Carolina line is on the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization (MUMPO) 2030 Long Range Transportation Plan, but it's not expected to be completed before 2030. It's among the 2030 Horizon Year Roadway Projects in the plan. According to Bob Cook, Transportation Planner with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department, this means that the need has been identified and funding is "expected" to be available to complete the project by 2030.

Widening of the road from I-485 south to S Tryon Street (Hwy 49) is higher on the priority list, and is more likely to be completed earlier in the 2020's. Widening of the section from S Tryon Street to the South Carolina line is lower in priority and would be completed later.

Total anticipated costs are $27.9 million for the northern section and $12.2 million for the southern section. Both sections include widening to four lanes with a median and bike lanes.

Also in the 2030 Long Range Plan is the proposed Garden Parkway, which will run south of Gastonia and  connect I-85 west of Gastonia to I-485 in Mecklenburg County. It is being planned as a toll road by the North Carolina Turnpike Authority.

The eastern end of the Garden Parkway will connect to I-485 in Upper Steele Creek at the interchange that was constructed for West Boulevard. Charlotte Douglas Airport currently is realigning West boulevard to connect to this interchange. See the airport's Runway and Road Relocation Update web site and Wallace Neel Road to be Closed until Summer 2008. The interchange will be redesigned and rebuilt to accommodate the garden Parkway, which will be a divided, limited access highway.

According to Randi Gates of the Gaston Urban Area MPO, planners are still studying several potential corridors for the parkway. The Environmental Impact Statement should be released next year and the route should be decided soon after that. The Record of Decision (the official decision on the route) should be released in 2010.

The Garden Parkway will be constructed in three phases. The first phase will connect I-485 to New Hope Road in Gaston County and is expected to be open in 2015. This section is needed to give Gastonia commuters an additional way to cross the Catawba River and relieve the congestion on Wilkinson Boulevard and I-85.

The second phase will connect New Hope Road to US Highway 321 south of Gastonia. The third phase will connect US Highway 321 to I-85 west of Gastonia. Steele Creek residents would like to see this highway completed to have quick and easy route towards western North Carolina, western South Carolina, and Atlanta, but Ms. Gates was not able to offer a prediction on when the last two phases would be built.

The Garden Parkway is among the 2020 Horizon Year Roadway Projects in the MUMPO 2030 Long Range Transportation Plan.

MUMPO is responsible for federally mandated transportation planning activities within Mecklenburg County and the urban portion of Union County. Among its duties is to prepare long range transportation plans. MUMPO plans to provide an update to the current long range transportation plan in 2009. This update will describe what roads, transit, and bicycle and pedestrian facilities will be built up to the year 2035.

The updated plan could show revised priorities for roadway and other projects, and the public has an opportunity to influence those priorities. MUMPO is encouraging meaningful citizen participation in the update. For more infomation, visit the MUMPO web site


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