University City

Despite setbacks, northern light rail plans forge ahead

What do you get when you mix a growing neighborhood with an underused railroad? One result is the proposed plan for the Charlotte Transit Red Line.

Davis Lake-Eastfield residents and business owners along Old Statesville Road could see changes in its the railways as Charlotte Area Transit System forges ahead with its plans for a public passenger train in the northern part of the county. Changes to the state budget could change funding plans for the Red Line, however.

The Red Line is an addition to the CATS Lynx Light Rail system. The 2010 CATS annual report describes the Red Line as a "25-mile commuter rail project designed to operate on the existing Norfolk Southern 'O' Line and provide service between Charlotte, Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson and Mount Mourne in southern Iredell County."

According to charmeck.org, proposed stations in the Davis Lake-Eastfield area include one near W.T. Harris Boulevard and Old Statesville Road and one near Eastfield and Alexanderana roads.

For the Davis Lake-Eastfield community, this could provide commuters with an alternate mode of transportation along Old Statesville Road, which has seen increased congestion due to the rapidly expanding residential development of the area.

A June 2007 financial strategy report by the Metropolitan Transit Commission, a governing board for CATS, states "growing congestion is overwhelming the capacity of the region's only major north-south highway and forcing commuters onto local two-lane roads never intended to serve as major regional arterials."

Construction on the Red Line (also known as the "North Corridor" on several CATS planning reports and maps) was scheduled to start in summer 2012; however, the current economic situation may delay the start of construction.

Due to lack of available funds for the line, the MTC created a task force to find alternative sources of funding for the project. Mayors of the cities and towns along the proposed line are among the members of the Lynx Red Line Task Force (LRLTF) created in June 2010 "to formalize the work of finding alternative means of financing for the advancement of the Red Line" according to the annual report.

The LRLTF meets monthly to go over action items regarding the Red Line and to discuss any progress on funding options. The next meeting will be in June and is open to the public.

Though economic delays plague the Red Line project, work is continuing to advance the plan and to make it more beneficial to area residents.

According to the April 27 minutes of the LRLTF, Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department has proposed a "Red Line Trail," which will include pedestrian and bike paths along the line from uptown Charlotte to south Iredell County. The Red Line Trail "will provide access to all proposed Red Line stations, and connectivity for schools, greenways, parks, residential developments, businesses and commercial centers" that are along the line. The use of the trail by commuters could further ease road congestion in the Davis Lake-Eastfield neighborhood.

Some residents are not sure the Red Line will significantly better the area.

"It sounds as if I am about four miles from (a Red Line station). I don't expect the impact to be very big for me. It's hard for me to believe the cost is justified for questionable benefits," said William Griesmyer, a Davis Lake resident.

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