Fed up with I-77? CATS sets meetings on reconsidering commuter rail to Lake Norman

A CATS transit bus and LYNX light-rail train travel along South Boulevard in Charlotte.
A CATS transit bus and LYNX light-rail train travel along South Boulevard in Charlotte. Observer File Photo

Fed up with Interstate 77? Here’s your chance to speak in support of a plan to revive commuter rail from Charlotte to Mooresville.

Beginning this month, Charlotte Area Transit System has scheduled six public meetings in Charlotte and the Lake Norman area about its plans to take “a fresh look” at the Red Line commuter rail proposal.

On a “LYNX North Corridor” flier, CATS says it will work with Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson and Mooresville over the next 1  1/2 years to evaluate the most effective form of rapid transit and best corridor alignment.

The first two meetings are scheduled for 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Cornelius Town Hall, 21445 Catawba Ave., and Thursday at Camp North End, 1776 Statesville Road in Charlotte. Other meetings will follow through mid-November.

In February, Charlotte transit officials announced an ambitious plan to extend rail to the airport, to Matthews and to Lake Norman – and virtually all at once.

“Because we’re behind, because of the impact of the recession … we’ve got to find a way to jump start it,” John Lewis, chief executive officer of CATS, said at the time.

The plan, which could cost as much as $6 billion, includes a new commuter-rail corridor through northern towns, abandoning a long-planned Red Line rail along existing tracks. Norfolk Southern killed the state’s original plans for the Red Line when the rail company said it would not allow its tracks to be used for the project.

Lewis said he was considering finding a new corridor apart from the Norfolk Southern tracks that run north from Charlotte to the Lake Norman communities. That would likely add hundreds of millions of dollars to the Red Line’s $500 million estimated cost.

The plan could require an expanded transit sales tax that would need voter approval – a hard sell in North Mecklenburg, critics say.

A white paper three years ago offered two alternative rail lines through North Mecklenburg, east and west of the Norfolk Southern line. Huntersville commissioners felt either alternative would be too disruptive of its downtown, Mayor John Aneralla has said.

Last year, he said, Lewis and the Metropolitan Transit Commission agreed to focus instead on improved bus service between North Mecklenburg and Charlotte.

In March, Huntersville pushed back against the planned $2.3 million study of alternatives to light rail in northern Mecklenburg County, digging in against a project that has failed to gain traction for nearly two decades.

Town commissioners approved a resolution urging the Metropolitan Transit Commission to reject a CATS budget for fiscal year 2018 and fiscal year 2019 that included the $2.3 million to study alternative light rail lines.

“We basically urged the MTC to reallocate those funds to the many uses that would enhance bus service,” such as sidewalks to bus stops, shelters and connecting greenways to park-and-ride lots, Aneralla said at the time.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

Red Line transit meetings

Charlotte Area Transit System has scheduled these public meetings about its plans to take “a fresh look” at the Red Line light rail proposal:

    6-7:30 p.m. Oct. 17, Cornelius Town Hall, 21445 Catawba Ave.

    6-7:30 p.m. Oct. 19, Camp North End, 1776 Statesville Road, Charlotte.

    6-7:30 p.m. Oct. 24, Charlotte Water - Dukes Treatment Plant, 7980 Babe Stillwell Farm Road, Huntersville.

    6-7:30 p.m. Nov. 9, Charles Mack Citizen Center, 215 N. Main St., Mooresville.

    11:30 a.m.–1 p.m. Nov. 15, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, 310 N. Tryon St. in uptown Charlotte.

    6-7:30 p.m. Nov. 16, Mecklenburg County Bar Association, 2850 Zebulon Ave., Charlotte.