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Belmont, Gastonia residents rally against garden parkway

http://66.225.205.104/JR20090514.mp3

Residents of Belmont and Gastonia are organizing to oppose plans for a new toll road - called the Garden Parkway - that would cut through their neighborhoods. WFAE's Julie Rose reports: They've been rumbling about the Garden Parkway for months, but tonight residents along the road's proposed route are meeting to formalize their opposition. Earlier this month, state transportation officials announced the recommended path for the toll road going from I-485 south of the airport west through Gaston County and up to I-85. The road is meant to ease congestion on 85 and help Gaston County residents commute to Charlotte. The problem for Stacy Ivancic is the state has only allocated enough money to build about two-thirds of the road. "This east-west connector - or Garden Parkway - is going to from 485 through Gaston County and dump all of the traffic on 321, through the historic district of Gastonia, which is not set up to handle that kind of traffic," says Ivancic, who lives along the proposed route in Belmont. The North Carolina Turnpike Authority projects the first stretch will be complete in 2014. By then, Turnpike Authority Spokesperson Reid Simons says state officials are hoping there'll be enough funding to finish the rest. "Like many other projects of this size - it's almost 22 miles long - for instance 485 and other projects of this size - it's recommended that the project's done in phases," says Simons. I-485 is exactly what has some Gastonia and Belmont residents worried, since its final leg is years over due. But Simons also says residents may be over-estimating how many people will end up cutting through Gastonia's historic neighborhoods on 321. She also says the route is open to changes based on public comments made during open houses for the project in June. Concerned citizens will meet at Belmont Middle School tonight at 7.