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Garden Parkway Route Finalized, Toll Likely $.15/mile

http://66.225.205.104/JR20120305.mp3

After decades of debate and uncertainty, the route for a proposed toll road west of Charlotte has received final federal approval. State officials hope to begin construction on the Garden Parkway by the middle of next year - if they can line up the $912 million dollars the project will cost. A little more than 60 percent of the billion-dollar price tag will come from state funds the General Assembly has promised to allocate over the next forty years. The rest will likely be federal loans and a bond offering the state hopes to pay off using toll revenues. With the route for the Garden Parkway finalized, we now know what kind of toll drivers can expect to pay. "In the ballpark of 15 cents a mile," says Reid Simons, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Turnpike Authority. A just-released study of traffic and tolling patterns on the proposed Garden Parkway estimates revenues would start at about $15 million a year and rise steadily. The Garden Parkway will skim the southern edge of Gaston County connecting I-485 in Charlotte to I-85 near Bessemer City. The NC Turnpike Authority estimates the full 22-mile trip will save drivers about 28 minutes in travel time and carry a toll of $3.30. Simons says the federal government's approval of the Garden Parkway route clears the way not only for financing, but for purchasing land in the right-of-way. "There are many people we hear from that are ready to have some sort of direction of what they should do with their homes or businesses or farms and this record of decision does help give people some stability in where the project will go," says Simons. Simons say land acquisition will start later this year. Approval of construction permits and a final plan of finance are anticipated this summer, with the Garden Parkway projected for completion in 2015.