As a metro population of 2.5 million, expected to add 1 million more people in the next 20 years, how are we going to continue to efficiently move people and product in and through our region? Several things are happening in 2018 that suggest we can be successful.
In March, a 12-mile expansion of the Blue Line will open, connecting our center city to the UNC Charlotte campus. This will accelerate the university’s growth into a campus of more than 40,000 students. It will be similarly transformative from a land-use perspective. As we celebrate, we must consider future challenges: How will we pay for the buildout of our vision to include transit to the airport, along Independence Boulevard to Matthews, to Lake Norman and along the streetcar corridor from Eastland Mall to Johnson C. Smith University? And, how can any of our transit corridors be extended into surrounding counties?
Construction proceeds on a major portion of I-85 in Cabarrus County. Later this year, the Monroe Bypass will open, offering a parallel alternative to Highway 74 through most of Union County. This will offer expedited access to the beaches and the Port of Wilmington, while also creating new development opportunities for Union County.
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Later this year or next, I-77 will open new managed lanes on a 26-mile stretch from Charlotte’s center city through Lake Norman and into Iredell County. This project will deliver needed additional capacity decades ahead of traditional financing methods. It will serve as a model for how public-private partnerships and user fees can expedite the building of additional assets in our region.
Managed lanes are also planned for the Independence Boulevard corridor from the center city to Matthews and for I-485 in the Ballantyne corridor. Public hearings will take place this year that we hope will keep those projects on track. And early efforts have begun toward building a bridge across the Catawba River near the airport into Gaston County.
In November, Charlotte voters will have the opportunity to vote on the third installment in a 10-year capital investment program that includes funding for housing, neighborhoods and streets. The proposed investment for streets will likely be approximately $120 million. We will need for Charlotte voters to say “Yes” to all three bonds.
Our airport is a critical part of our transportation network. The City of Charlotte is currently investing $2.5 billion over 10 years to upgrade and expand the airport to better serve passengers and grow.
The intermodal yard on airport property is a critical link in the distribution network of the southeast. We have additional opportunities to increase access to East Coast ports to better serve manufacturers and distributors.
And we must figure out how to link Charlotte to Atlanta and points north with high-speed passenger rail. This will require a significant federal investment and likely public-private partnership dollars. In the meantime, ground will be broken this year on the Charlotte Gateway Station, a new passenger rail terminal uptown to replace the Amtrak station on North Tryon.
As we continue to grow, funding a comprehensive transportation infrastructure will be an ongoing challenge and opportunity for our city and region.
Morgan is president of the Charlotte Chamber.