Be heard in Blue Line discussion

Charlotte planners want ideas, comments on proposal from area residents

10/13/2012 8:00 PM

10/14/2012 12:58 PM

Construction plans are in motion for 11 new light-rail stations along North Tryon Street, and the Charlotte Planning Department wants ideas and comments from area residents on the project.

The Blue Line Extension project will begin at the Ninth Street station uptown and snake all the way to UNC Charlotte when it’s complete.

The Blue Line Extension is expected to cost about $1.16 billion, said Judy Dellert-O’Keef, a spokeswoman for the project. The planning department is waiting for approval, either this month or in November, of a grant from the Federal Transit Administration that would pay for half the project cost.

“There’s nothing to indicate we wouldn’t receive funding,” said Kathy Cornett of the planning department.

A combination of state and local money would pay the other half.

When and if the federal funding is approved, the planning department expects construction to begin in November 2013. Cornett said the extension should start operating in March 2017.

The planning department is hosting community meetings with local residents and businesspeople to discuss plans, answer questions and get feedback.

The next two workshops will be Oct. 18 and Nov. 1 at Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church. They will address six of the new stations, between Parkwood Avenue and Tom Hunter Road.

About 100 people came to the first meeting Oct. 4 to hear initial information and plans. They also had the chance to make notations on large maps and submit questions to the planning department.

Some business owners near the extension came in hopes of discovering how the train might affect their businesses.

“It’s hard to say because everything is so conceptual. There are no details to tell me how my business will be affected,” said Chuck Howard, who owns a car wash on Tom Hunter Road. “I don’t know that (the light rail extension is) necessarily good for business”

Jayesh Patel, who owns a gas station on North Tryon, said he hadn’t decided whether the light rail will be good for his business. He hasn’t ridden the Lynx Blue Line, which opened in November 2007 and runs from I-485 at South Boulevard to Seventh Street uptown.

“I’m going to ride the other side and experience it,” Patel said.

Others said they’re looking forward to more public transportation and prospects of development in North Charlotte.

“I’m very excited,” said Brad Dilks, who lives near the proposed Tom Hunter station.

He works uptown at Bank of America and said he would ride the light rail to work.

“I think it’s going to be very transformative for the corridor,” said Dilks. “That area hasn’t seen growth in decades.”

Alan Pressley owns six buildings at the corner of Parkwood Avenue and Brevard Street. He said he’s considering selling them so they can be better developed and bring business to the area.

“I think it’s a great thing for North Charlotte,” Pressley said of the extension. “We’ve been neglected as opposed to the south side of town. With the light rail, I think the city would see some terrific improvements.”

Mary Newsom, associate director of the Urban Institute at UNC Charlotte, said she thinks the Blue Line Extension will transform north Charlotte.

“I think potentially it will have an even bigger effect than the south section of the light-rail line, because at the end of it, you have a state university of 26,000 students and roughly 5,000 employees,” Newsom said, adding that she’s not speaking for the university.

“I suspect it will be heavily used.”

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