Lake Norman & Mooresville

Gas shortage stirs talk about commuter train

The recent gas shortages have increased talk about the need for other transportation alternatives.

In the Lake Norman region, that could mean the North Corridor commuter train. Mooresville officials talked about it last week with Charlotte Area Transit System officials, and the town of Huntersville could also be part of the discussion, too.

The engineering costs should be known by the end of the year, but local towns are still expected to come up with $70 million of the total cost of the project, now estimated at $261 million.

Huntersville town board member Ron Julian said he hopes that his town and others can avoid most, if not all, of that cost by partnering with developers to help defray the cost of the rail.

He said that is already happening near the southern stop, thanks to the new Bryton development. Julian said developers there are partnering with the town through tax increment financing. That plan uses future, expected tax revenues from the development to help pay for improvements to the rail and other roads around the development. That kind of deal could happen with the other two Huntersville stops.

But the commuter rail still faces a long road. It won't be completed until 2012 at the earliest, and it could total more than the $261 million projected cost. Cornelius and Davidson officials have spoken in favor of it, but it could face challenges in Huntersville and Mooresville. That's why alternate ideas, such as using developers to help pay for the rail, could be pivotal to its future.