There is no imminent rumble of wheels on the railroad tracks through north Mecklenburg and south Iredell – in fact, in places, limbs and tall weeds are proof of the “O Line” rails’ long-term idleness. But there is a faint signal, a murmur, that the decades-old vision for a northern corridor of Charlotte-region passenger rail service has the possibility of revival.
Indications are that the Charlotte Area Transit System's proposed LYNX Red Line could be poised for, at the least, a renewed push, with several factors fueling that feeling:
- There’s a new leader at Norfolk Southern, with Alan Shaw becoming CEO in May replacing James Squires. That doesn’t mean policy has changed, but it does offer a fresh start for discussions;
- There is a new and substantial pool of federal funding, part of a $1.2 trillion national infrastructure bill, available to assist in public transit ($39 billion) and rail ($66 billion) projects;
- At the July 27 meeting of the Metropolitan Transit Commission – the CATS policy board staffed by leaders from area towns – CATS Director of Planning Jason Lawrence proposed investing (with $5 million referenced as the amount) in a project to get an updated Red Line design plan at least 30 percent complete to be in position to compete in what Lawrence called a “generational opportunity for federal funding.”
- Sustain Charlotte, a 10-year-old agency with a mission to promote better land use and transportation practices, has embraced the Red Line as a priority and sponsored an online petition (sustaincharlotte.org/redlinepetition) to send to the CEOs of Norfolk Southern and the N.C. Railroad highlighting positive impacts northern corridor rail service could have in the region.
None of this means anything will change, but it has revived Red Line discussions.
“I believe there is a window,” Sustain Charlotte founder and executive director Shannon Binns said. “CATS has maintained contact and communication with Norfolk Southern and I think there is something behind the renewed effort.”
“The Red Line is a critical piece of the region’s transportation network,” he said. “I am hopeful, optimistic, that conversations have begun and we are nearer to making this happen. I think that is why there is this push to get the 30 percent design done. I don’t think they would be advocating for this kind of investment unless they detected a viable opportunity to make this a reality.
“I think we’re closer than we have been for a long time.”
(Read the full article from Lake Norman Citizen)