The planned North Corridor commuter rail would likely need a bigger contribution from Huntersville than three other Lake Norman towns, but that figure won't be known for several months.
The 25-mile, 10-stop commuter train would run between downtown Charlotte and Mount Mourne near Mooresville in Iredell County. It would also have stops in Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson, and could be completed by 2012.
But Charlotte Area Transit System Chief Executive Keith Parker said that the contribution from those four towns would be based on the number of stops each has and not a flat contribution.
Three stops are planned for Huntersville, while the others have only one each. Final engineering costs should be known by the end of the year, but Parker and other CATS officials have said the four local towns could have to come up with as much as $70 million of the total cost of the project.
Based on that, Huntersville would have to come up with $35 million, but Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain said other factors could push Huntersville's price tag substantially lower.
The rail line is still only in the planning stages, and more will be known in the spring, when the Metropolitan Transit Commission will recommend whether to go ahead with the commuter rail, a northeast line, or both.
Parker will meet with federal officials this month to ask the Federal Trade Commission to pay for up to 80 percent of the cost of the commuter train, northeast light rail extension and improvements to the existing light rail line. The federal government has indicated that it would not help pay for the commuter rail, but contributions to the other projects could help ease the burden of local governments for the commuter rail. Parker has said his proposal is a long shot
Swain, a member of the Transit Commission, said she is not giving any credence to estimates concerning the town's portion of the bill because of the uncertainty of the final figure. She said she is more concerned that the Northeast line has been discussed more by local transit officials of late.
“We have been planning for a dozen years for our project to be next,” she said. “We don't want our rail to be pushed to the wayside.”
But the rail could meet resistance from Huntersville's own government. Town board members have been lukewarm about the rail line, especially if it takes town money to pay for it.
“I'm not putting in a rail line that is a government boondoggle,” commissioner Brian Sisson said. “And with CATS, what will the final total be when we actually build it? I am not a big advocate of something that will take away the future revenue of the town.”
Swain isn't ready to dismiss the rail yet. She points to the development plans already being discussed for the rail, as well as the revenue that could be available through tax increment financing. Tax increment financing uses future, expected tax revenues from the development to help pay for improvements to the rail and other roads around the development, and is already in place at the southern Huntersville stop.
“How can you deny that this has incredible potential?” she said.