Longtime plans to connect uptown Charlotte to the Lake Norman area by commuter rail picked up speed again this week.
On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Transit Commission unanimously approved Charlotte Area Transit System's request for $5 million to advance the LYNX Red Line with a refreshed design.
The Red Line is crucial in making the Charlotte region's transportation network more comprehensive. Importantly, it would provide residents of the Lake Norman area with a reliable and high-frequency option to travel between their towns and to Charlotte without needing a car.
As we wrote in July, plans for the Red Line need to be updated because technology has changed since the last big design in the mid-2000s. On top of that, the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law this year, provides an opportunity to secure more funding.
The plan that the MTC approved also includes public outreach, confirming the Red Line's alignment into uptown, and more coordination with Norfolk Southern about sharing the company's existing rail line.
You can watch the discussion and vote here.
Here are a few of the comments made by CATS staff and members of the MTC in support of updating the design.
- Jason Lawrence, CATS director of planning: "A lot has changed in the corridor — a lot of growth, a lot of new development. There's new vehicle technologies like electric trains that could be an opportunity for exploration in this update. And the public and you all have indicated a need for additional frequencies." Lawrence also added that a goal was not just to connect the Lake Norman area to uptown better but to improve transit between the north Mecklenburg towns.
- Rusty Knox, Davidson mayor: "I think there are times when the stars align, and this trillion-dollar infrastructure package just happened to fall at the right time where I think those stars have aligned for this thing to move forward."
- Woody Washam, Cornelius mayor: "It's taken a lot of my time over the past couple of weeks to come to grips with spending $5 million on yet another study, but I'm convinced it's the right thing to do at this point. It is a unique opportunity in time. Federal funds are hanging out there. It'll never be any better than it is now… If you don't have proper studies to back up what you're asking for, it won't happen."
- Leigh Altman, Mecklenburg County commissioner and MTC chair: "I deeply agree with the importance of us seizing this moment, and this is a prerequisite on that road."
Our take: This is a critical step toward regional connectivity. Rapid population growth in the metro area requires sustainable transportation choices to maintain a healthy environment, high quality of life, and robust economy. We applaud the MTC for its vote.
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