The public will get a chance this week and next to offer more input on the proposed Northeast Corridor light-rail line, which could be running between the uptown area and northeast Mecklenburg County by late 2015.
The line is being called an extension of the LYNX Blue Line, which runs from Seventh Street uptown south to Interstate 485 in Pineville. Together, they would provide uninterrupted service from near Pineville to north of UNC Charlotte. The Northeast line is projected to cost at least $741 million.
But first, there's some planning to do. CATS has held several previous informational meetings to talk about plans for the light-rail line, including at UNCC.
Danny Rogers, project manager for the 11-mile Northeast line, says people who attend the public meetings Thursday and July 15 can participate in a discussion that will help planners answer questions about where the light rail line would swing over to join North Tryon Street, where it is expected to run in the median northward toward UNCC.
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Should the line serve the Plaza/Eastway neighborhoods behind Asian Corners mall, and then join North Tryon near Old Concord Road?
Or should the line meet North Tryon near the Sugar Creek intersection, where it would serve the Hidden Valley neighborhood, Asian Corners shopping center and the nearby retail district?
“That could be an issue for some people in the Hidden Valley area,” Rogers concedes. “But that's why we're having these meetings. We want to hear what the public says.”
“We also would be helping some people by serving Asian Corners,” he adds. “That will be an issue for people to talk about.”
Once the light-rail line reaches the UNCC area, the line is expected to loop through campus. UNCC officials are interested in building a station on campus, Rogers says.
“CATS has always wanted to be on that campus, and the university officials are with us on that,” Rogers says.
The location for that station has not been selected, but surveyors already have been on the campus, studying sites. There are environmental concerns about wetlands in that area. UNCC officials will have to give final approval for such a project.
Rogers says bus service – similar to the Gold Rush lines that operate in Charlotte's uptown – would ferry students and staff around campus from the two stations near UNCC.
“The station on Mallard Creek Church Road has been moved farther away (east) from North Tryon Street, closer to the (student) apartments,” Rogers says.
Rogers offers one caution for anyone eager to see light-rail service start soon. “This will be a more involved project than the south line,” he says.
On the south line, CATS used an existing rail line down South Boulevard. The Northeast line is a different creature.
“We will have to cross three rail lines and work in the median of North Tryon Street,” Rogers says. “This project will need more time.”