Transit commission OKs Charlotte-to-Belmont light rail line that connects to airport

The Charlotte Area Transit System’s policy board has approved a plan to extend light rail to Belmont, in Gaston County, creating an east-west line from Matthews that connects to Charlotte’s airport.

The Metropolitan Transit Commission, which has members from Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and six towns in the county, unanimously approved the plan Wednesday night. The commission reviews CATS’ long-range transportation plans.

Previous estimates for building out the full 2030 transit plan have put the total cost at $5 billion to $7 billion.

The new Lynx Silver Line would connect the Belmont segment at U.S. 74 and Interstate 277, near Charlotte’s North End and Gateway District, to a corridor extending from Matthews.

Under the recommendations CATS made last month, the new east-west rail line would run along uptown Charlotte’s northern edge rather than through a tunnel under the center city.

The commission also approved recommendations for bus transit between Charlotte, northern Mecklenburg County and Mooresville in southern Iredell County. CATS has long sought to implement commuter rail, known as the LYNX Red Line, to the north but has been unable to gain access to the existing Norfolk Southern rail corridor.

Bus service to the area will include several new park-and-ride lots in northern towns.

The commission also approved CATS’ proposal to start studying rapid-transit options including light rail to Pineville and Ballantyne in southern Mecklenburg.

Bruce Henderson writes about transportation, emerging issues and interesting people for The Charlotte Observer. His reporting background is in covering energy, environment and state news.