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Carlee suggests postponing streetcar for more study

New Charlotte City Manager Ron Carlee said Tuesday that he may recommend separating the controversial streetcar from a proposed capital plan in order to study it further.

Carlee, who was previously manager of Arlington County in Virginia, is a supporter of streetcars and believes they can spark economic development. But he said he wants to take a detailed look at the possible economic impact of Charlotte’s planned line, and isn’t sure that he will have time to do so before he is scheduled to give City Council his budget recommendations in May.

Carlee started his job April 1.

“I may not be able to complete my streetcar analysis,” Carlee said in an interview Tuesday. “It’s a complicated project, and there are a lot of pieces in play.”

Carlee said he is waiting for the recommendations of a task force studying ways to finance planned transit projects, including the streetcar.

If the streetcar is removed from the plan, if only temporarily, council members could find it easier to approve a capital plan with hundreds of millions of dollars for new streets, sidewalks, police stations and affordable housing, among other things.

Council members are scheduled to hold a budget workshop Wednesday at 3 p.m.

In Arlington County, Va., Carlee supported building a streetcar along Columbia Pike, one of the area’s busiest thoroughfares. That project is still being planned.

Charlotte has started preliminary construction on a 1.5-mile streetcar line from Time Warner Cable Arena to Presbyterian Hospital. That $37 million project is being funded in part by a $25 million federal grant.

Last year, former City Manager Curt Walton proposed spending $119 million to extend that starter streetcar line another 2.5 miles.

While much of the $926 million capital plan had broad council support, the streetcar extension became a roadblock. Six council members objected to building the streetcar with property taxes, or were wary of the project altogether.

Mayor Anthony Foxx is perhaps the streetcar’s biggest supporter. In June, he vetoed a capital budget that didn’t include the streetcar, saying it didn’t do enough for the city.

Last week, Foxx announced he won’t run for a third term.

Foxx and council members tried to find consensus on the streetcar in the fall and failed.

The full $926 million capital plan would require an 8 percent property tax increase.

Harrison: 704-358-5160
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