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MPO VOTES TO KILL PARKWAY

ASHEVILLE — Regional transportation planners voted on Thursday to drop the Balfour Parkway from the state plans, dealing a crucial  blow in the process to formally kill the project.

The French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization, which sets transportation funding priorities for Henderson, Buncombe and other Western North Carolina counties, voted 10-4 to withdraw its support of the proposed northern bypass.  The MPO's action came after the Henderson County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution on May 7 asking the NCDOT to drop the project.

All that remains now to formally kill the project is a 30-day comment period, a final MPO vote and action by the state Board of Transportation to remove the parkway from the state transportation improvement plan.

About 20 homeowners active in the Stop the Balfour Parkway campaign broke into applause when the MPO vote was made.

Jack Debnam, a board member representing NCDOT Division 14, objected to the resolution because the Hendersonville City Council wanted the DOT to continue the planning process.

“We’re getting from one governing body no, and another stay the course and we’ve not herd anything from Mills River and they would be impacted,” he said.

“I’d like to see more conversation between Hendersonville and Henderson County.”

John Dockendorf, a Henderson County Transportation Advisory Committee member from Flat Rock, also said he supported more study.

There was little support, though, for keeping the project alive.

Dockendorf and Mills River representative Brian Caskey cast two of the four no votes on the resolution to remove the project from the state transportation plan.

Stop the Balfour Parkway during the public comment period implored the French Broad MPO to join the Henderson County Board of Commissioners to kill the project.

Bill Erickson, a Grimesdale resident, said congestion on Four Seasons Boulevard is caused by local traffic, not east-west through traffic, and by six traffic lights between Dana Road and I-26.

“The Balfour Parkway will not improve this congestion,” he said. “It is time to abandon this myth that an east-west expressway north of Hendersonville will relieve congestion on Four Seasons Boulevard once and for all.”