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Study Underway for New Gaston Connector
Involves new interchange at I-485 and West Boulevard

(February 4, 2006) Highway improvements are needed throughout North Carolina, but funding is hard to come by. One alternative being considered is to build new highways as toll roads.

The North Carolina Turnpike Authority is studying the feasibility of building a number of toll roads within the state. One of these is the Gaston County East-West Connector, also known as the Garden Parkway. This proposed road would connect I-85 west of Gastonia to I-485 in Mecklenburg County. The 16 alternative routes under study run south of Gastonia and cross the Catawba River into the northern edge of the Steele Creek community.

The proposed new highway would connect to the new West Boulevard alignment south of the airport.

West Boulevard is being realigned because of planned expansion to the Charlotte-Douglas Airport. The airport is  adding a fourth runway on the west side of the airport. Also, an extension of the existing western runway will require realignment of West Boulevard south to the current location of Byrum Drive. West Boulevard would continue west to connect to the interchange on I-485 that currently is not being used.

Additionally, Dixie Road and Wallace Neal Road will be displaced by the new runway. The airport is required to provide an alternate route around the west side of the airport. This route will follow the new West Boulevard alignment across I-485 and connect up to additional new and improved roads to provide access to Walkers Ferry Road and Old Dowd Road to the north. Once these roads are completed, the unused interchange on I-485 will open up.

See previous story on the Dixie-Berryhill Thoroughfare Plan for a map of approved new road alignments.

Planners have identified several potential corridors for the new Gaston Connector. These are about 1400 feet wide. The eventual 350 foot right-of-way will lie somewhere within these corridors.

The Mecklenburg County portion includes at least three alternative corridors. All three end just south of the I-485 interchange for the new West Boulevard extension. The eventual design of this area could look like the following:

  • The Garden Parkway will tie in to West Boulevard, where it will change from an expressway to a local road.

  • The previously realigned West Boulevard to the north will be retained as a local road, providing a non-expressway access to areas west of I-485.
  • A new interchange will be built for Garden Parkway at I-485. This will be a large interchange with ramps in several levels that is typical of interchanges at two expressways.
  • The existing but currently unused interchange for the new West Boulevard will be removed.
  • An additional interchange will be built on Garden Parkway at Dixie River Road.

Illustration of Possible, Approximate Road and Interchange Locations

The scenario described above would provide access across I-485 on local roads so that motorists would not need to get on the parkway. However, it is only a possibility.

The selection of the preferred alternative route for the Gaston Connector is scheduled for fall 2008, and the final decision likely will not be made until 2010. Right-of-way acquisition and construction currently is unfunded and will not occur until at least after the final decision on the route.

The North Carolina Turnpike Authority and the North Carolina Department of Transportation held a series of workshops last week, including one at Olympic High School. They had several large-scale maps of the study area and staff were available to answer questions. They had comment forms available and encouraged input.

For more information, see the North Carolina Department of Transportation's Gaston County East-West Connector web page. Comments can be made through this site. You also can sign up for the study mailing list so you can keep informed about future workshops and other opportunities to find out about plans and to offer comments.  

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