Politics & Government

Federal court rules Garden Parkway is still not viable

The Garden Parkway was meant to relieve congestion on Interstate 85 in Gaston County.
The Garden Parkway was meant to relieve congestion on Interstate 85 in Gaston County.

The Garden Parkway has been declared dead. Again.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the project is not viable and said it faces “multiple barriers to construction.”

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Catawba Riverkeeper and Clean Air Carolina. The SELC challenged the environmental impact statement made for the 22-mile, $900 million toll road that would have linked Gaston and Mecklenburg counties.

A federal district court agreed with the law center – a decision that was appealed by the N.C. Department of Transportation.

But in the meantime, support for the project dwindled. It scored poorly on a new statewide ranking system for highways. The legislature cut funding for the project, and local planners removed it from a list of possible transportation projects.

The appeal, however, moved forward.

The Fourth Circuit did not rule on the law center’s claim that the environmental projection was flawed. Instead, the court said it didn’t matter because the project essentially doesn’t exist.

“At oral argument, NCDOT represented that the Connector is no longer viable,” the Fourth Circuit wrote. “In light of these developments, we conclude that this appeal is moot and accordingly vacate the district court’s judgment.”

While the Garden Parkway is dead, the DOT is building the Monroe Expressway, a new toll road through Union County. The law center had forced the DOT to re-do its environmental impact analysis for the expressway, which delayed construction.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs

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