From N.C. Rep. William Brawley, R-Mecklenburg, and Rep. Frank Iler, R-Brunswick, co-chairs House Committee on Transportation, along with Rep. Phillip Shepard, R-Onslow, and Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, co-chairs House Appropriations Sub-Committee on Transportation:
Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx and N.C. Sen. Malcolm Graham have injected a shrill tone into what should be a serious discussion of transportation priorities in Mecklenburg County. As co-chairmen of the House committees on transportation policy and appropriations, we wish to focus on the facts, not the rhetoric.
We understand the value of the transit system in Mecklenburg County. Nearly fifteen years ago, Mecklenburg County voters supported a local sales tax for that system. By doing so, they created an important three-way partnership among the countywide Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC), the State of North Carolina and the federal government. Each partner would participate in funding the construction of a fixed-route mass transit system in Mecklenburg County according to a plan adopted and overseen by the MTC.
This partnership has constructed the first leg of the system, now known as the Lynx Blue Line in the south corridor. The partnership continues to work on the next leg, the Blue Line Extension.
There are 108 members of the N.C. House of Representatives from 99 counties that receive no transit funding from the state. They see that Mecklenburg County gets state money for transit over and above its share of state money for roads. That funding comes up for a vote every year, and every year the Mecklenburg delegation must use its political influence to maintain that funding.
The MTC set the Blue Line Extension and the Red Line as its top priorities. If Charlotte has money available for a different transit project, then it will appear to more of our fellow legislators that Charlotte could cover all or part of the states share of the Blue Line Extension. In other words, if Charlotte can change the countys transit priorities, then it shouldnt surprise anyone if the state also chooses to change its priorities.
As mayor, Pat McCrory warned that if the Charlotte City Council went around the MTC to build the streetcar, it could endanger Blue Line Extension funding. He has repeated this warning as governor, which should surprise no one.
Last December, Mayor Foxxs suggestions for Charlottes Capital Investment Plan directly linked the Blue Line Extension and the streetcar. He suggested that Charlotte support either both or neither. That appears to us as a case of acting in bad faith to disrupt the promised development of the regions transit system.
Let us be clear: If the state cannot trust Charlotte to keep its agreement on the MTC plan, then the state has every right to reconsider its role in the funding partnership.
Gov. McCrory has a great deal of political wisdom and understanding of the General Assembly. Charlottes current leaders would do well to heed his counsel. Sen. Graham and Mayor Foxx are indulging in inflammatory political rhetoric. If they do not work with the rest of the legislature in a serious manner, they will lose state transit funding for Mecklenburg County and will have only themselves to blame.
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