Reimagining the Catawba Crossings
The Catawba Crossings Project is related to the former Gaston East-West Connector Project (also known as “The Garden Parkway”) with several important differences.
In general, the Catawba Crossings Project is smaller in scale and extent and would for that reason result in fewer impacts to the surrounding human and natural environment than were anticipated for the Gaston East-West Connector Project.
Further, the Catawba Crossings Project is proposed to be a multilane, median-divided roadway providing greater local connectivity opposed to the previous Gaston East-West Connector which was planned as a high-speed, controlled access, tolled freeway connecting I-85 west of Gastonia to I-485.
Catawba Crossings Project Components vs. Former Gaston East-West Connector Project Components
Former Gaston East-West Connector
NC 279 (S. New Hope Road) to NC 160 (Steele Creek Road)
I-85 to I-485
Approximate Length (Miles)
Roadway Classification (Proposed)
Median divided roadway with at-grade connections to local roadway network.
Access controlled roadway with grade separated roadway crossings and interchanges.
Number of Lanes
4 to 6 lanes (depending on projected traffic volumes)
Posted Speed Limit
Control of Access
Will be compatible with regional / local multimodal plans (e.g., transit, bicycle, pedestrian); local connections to existing and planned multimodal facilities will be evaluated.
Like the Gaston East-West Connector, the Catawba Crossings Project would establish a roadway crossing of Lake Wylie between I-85 and the Buster Boyd Bridge in South Carolina. This is a critical connection that will benefit regional travel demand now and the future. This demand has arguably grown since the Gaston East-West Connector Project was cancelled in 2016. Regional travel demand characteristics and traffic operations are being analyzed for this feasibility study.
For many decades, regional discussions have taken place regarding the need for an additional bridge in southeast Gaston County to provide additional connectivity to Mecklenburg County.
Late 1980s – Gastonia Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (GUAMPO) identifies need for new location, east-west roadway to improve mobility.
1989–1991 – GUAMPO engages the public in an extensive outreach effort including five citizen workshops, six public meetings, and 13 formal public hearings during the development of the Gaston Urban Area Thoroughfare Plan. Among the projects presented was the “US 321/74 Bypass” – the predecessor to Catawba Crossings – to address the need for improved east-west mobility.
1991 – GUAMPO adopts the Gaston Urban Area Thoroughfare Plan which includes the US 321/74 Bypass as a proposed project.
1994 – The Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization (MUMPO) adopts a conceptual regional thoroughfare plan proposed by the Charlotte Committee of 100 which includes the US 321/74 Bypass.
2001 – The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) begins environmental studies for the new location east-west roadway whose name is changed to the “Gaston East-West Connector”.
Sep. 30, Dec. 9–10, 2003 – NCDOT hosts a series of Citizen Information Workshops (CIW) regarding the Gaston East-West Connector’s need and purpose and preliminary design alternatives. Over 730 citizens signed in at these meetings.
Feb. 2005 – The North Carolina Toll Authority (NCTA) Board selects the Gaston East-West Connector as a candidate toll facility. The Gaston East-West Connector is also known as the “Garden Parkway”.
Jan. 31–Feb. 2, 2006 – NCTA hosts a series of CIW to present the Gaston East-West Connector Detailed Study Alternatives (DSA). Over 810 citizens signed in at these meetings.
May 22, 2009 – NCTA and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) publish the Gaston East-West Connector Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). Twelve (12) new location roadway alternatives are analyzed. The DEIS identifies DSA 9 as the Recommended Alternative.
Jun. 22–25, 2009 – NCTA hosts four Pre-Hearing Open House Public Meetings to present the DEIS and the Recommended Alternative. Over 880 citizens signed in at these meetings and 117 written comments were received.
Jun. 23 & 25 – NCTA hosts two Public Hearings to present the DEIS and the Recommended Alternative and formally hear public comments. Over 780 citizens signed in at these hearings with 82 speakers formally submitting comments.
Dec. 21, 2010 – NCTA and FHWA publish the Gaston East-West Connector Final EIS (FEIS).
Mar. 9, 2012 – NCTA and FHWA publish the Gaston East-West Connector Record of Decision (ROD)
Mar. 20, 2012 – NCTA submits US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Section 404 Clean Water Act (CWA) Permit Application.
Apr. 12, 2012 – USACE issues Public Notice for NCTA’s Gaston East-West Connector. The USACE receives comments from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), and property owners.
Jul. 10, 2012 – NCTA and FHWA request that the CWA Permit Application be withdrawn from consideration due to impending litigation.
Aug. 28, 2012 – Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation and Clean Air Carolina filed a complaint in the US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina Western Division against NCDOT and FHWA challenging analysis in the Gaston East-West Connector EIS.
Mar. 13, 2015 – The US District Court grants the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation and Clean Air Carolina request for summary judgement (Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation v. NCDOT, 2015). The plaintiffs challenged the EIS on several grounds, but their claims focused primarily on the socio-economic growth assumptions made in the No Build alternative. As a result, NCDOT and FHWA were ordered to conduct additional studies and produce a Supplemental EIS (SEIS) to address unresolved issues.
May 2016 – NCDOT sends postcards to more than 50,000 residents along the Gaston East-West Connector route announcing that the project was terminated.
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