Catawba Crossings project on 'life support'

Updated: Jul. 20, 2017 at 4:17 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Plans are on the table to create more connections between Mecklenburg and Gaston County. The Catawba Crossings project would create a road between West Boulevard and the Interstate 485 interchange at New Hope Road in south Gaston County.

However, similar to the Garden Parkway project, the Catawba Crossings project is facing a lot of opposition.

"What I call a stealth maneuver to get the Garden Parkway back in the transportation plans," Martin Oaks said, who is the vice chair of Lincoln County.
"If it goes through, it will suck up far too much money from both sides of the river."

The cost of the project is estimated to be nearly $200 million. The Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) of Gaston, Lincoln and Cleveland counties would pay around 60 percent of the cost depending on whether the project moves forward. The TPO of Mecklenburg, Union, and Iredell counties would pay nearly 40 percent of the cost.

"The Mecklenburg, Union, Iredell district would end up spending about half of our local money on a road that really does nothing for us," said Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett. "There is no reason for us to spend local dollars that would not aid us economically or lessen traffic congestion."

However, some leaders in Gaston County say the southern part of the county is set for a residential explosion and another connection would be vital to it's success.

"We are getting ready to extend utilities into the southern part of the county... thousands of acres available for all kinds of development, not just residential," Michael Peoples said, who is the city manager in Gastonia.

"There are only three connections between Mecklenburg and Gaston County," Peoples said.

However, concern about the amount of state allocated funds used in this project have many people worried about what it means for other projects in the future.

"No consideration for widening I-85. It meant not addressing the Wilkinson Blvd corridor or the $30 million bridge across the Catawba," said Bill Toole, a former city councilmen in Belmont.

If the Mecklenburg TPO does not want to move forward with the project, Gaston County can still work with the state to get funding. The county is currently trying to get the project designated as a state road so that more funding could be available.

Additional funding is available if the project has regional impact.

"I am saying now is not the right time because there is no upside for us. Down the road, maybe yes, we will have another reason to cross the river," said Puckett.

The River District continues to develop and the developers say the Catawba Crossings Project is not necessary for them to continue.

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