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EPA: Gaston Parkway - Not a good idea

In reviewing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Garden Parkway, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has significant concerns on the environmental impact of the toll road. It also questions in how much consideration various alternative were given.

The DEIS was released in May.

The EPA's concerns are many:
  • "Very Significant" Impact to nearby waterways, and that mitigation for these impacts have not been thoroughly provided and explained
  • More consideration to other transportation methods - including light rail
  • The time savings for commuters range from 0-5 minutes for more than half the project. They fail to see a benefit to commuters in Gaston County and in the study area.
  • Other socio-economic factors - from minority relocation and the impact on poor residents.
The NCTA has received similar responses from the Southern Environmental Law Center, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

The Turnpike Authority intends to answer the EPA's and all concerns when they release the Final EIS in the spring of 2010.

Story: EPA cites numerous problems with Garden Parkway ---Gaston Gazette

Commentary:
Immediately, opponents of the Garden Parkway pointed to the EPA's response as more reason why the Parkway shouldn't be built.
“It confirms what we believed — that there are serious problems with the project,” said Bill Toole, spokesman for a group opposing the toll road. “Just as we’ve been saying, the EPA is saying there are far better alternatives that need much more careful thought before they get rejected.”
And honestly, they're right. The road really does not significantly cut commute times for most residents in Gaston County - and the comments from the EPA in regards to the DEIS - show a lot of questions on the environmental impact on the highway.

This just adds to the controversy over the selection of the Gaston Parkway Preferred Alternative by the Turnpike Authority. Many residents have questioned the influence of State Senator David Hoyle (D-Gastonia) on the route. Hoyle, who has been a strong supporter of the Parkway, and his family own about 327 acres of land near one of the proposed exits of the Garden Parkway.

The N.C. Legislative Ethics Committee has cleared Hoyle in any wrong doing in a September 2008 advisory letter.

Former State Senator Robert Pittinger also owns land near the proposed Parkway; however, he abstained from voting on any legislation regarding the road.

Former State Senator, Robert Pittinger, also owns land near the Parkway, but he did not vote on any bills that included the Garden Parkway.

In addition, not all of the municipalities impacted along the route have signed on to the NCTA's preferred alternative. The Town of Belmont supports another routing of the highway.

Back to the EPA, this letter seems to have stung the proponents of the road. The concerns of the EPA has amplified the objections to the route and puts the burden on the NCTA to ease and explain their solutions to the numerous concerns of the EPA and other agencies.

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