Anthony Foxx celebrates streetcar’s next phase
In his last trip as U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx spoke at a groundbreaking ceremony Saturday for the second phase of the streetcar – a project that he pushed forward when he was Charlotte mayor for nearly four years.
Foxx and other officials gathered on West Trade Street in the parking lot of a closed grocery, “Park N Shop.” When finished in 2020, the streetcar, or Gold Line, will run through uptown and past the store to Johnson C. Smith University.
More than ridership, the Gold Line’s success will likely be determined based on whether it can rejuvenate the abandoned store and the rest of the Beatties Ford Road corridor.
“It’s been a yard and a cloud of dust getting this project done,” said Foxx. He was referring to the numerous controversies to the project, which is being built in pieces.
The first 1.5-mile phase opened in 2015. When the second phase is finished, the Gold Line will cover four miles. The plan is to eventually have a 10-mile line from the Eastland Mall site in Eastland Mall to the Rosa Parks Transit Center near Interstate 85 and Beatties Ford Road.
The federal government has been instrumental in building the Gold Line.
While Foxx was mayor, the U.S. DOT awarded Charlotte a $25 million grant to build the first phase. Under Foxx’s tenure, the DOT agreed to give Charlotte $75 million – half of the streetcar’s $150 million cost for the second phase.
It’s unclear whether the Trump administration will continue to fund streetcars – and whether Charlotte will be viewed as favorably if it does.
In his speech, Foxx said projects like the streetcar are key to bridging a divide between rich and poor and black and white. He said it was fitting that the groundbreaking ceremony was being held on the Saturday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Former mayor Patsy Kinsey said former CATS chief executive Ron Tober should be credited for the streetcar. Tober, who helped design the city’s 2030 transit plan, attended the ceremony.
“The streetcar was his brainchild,” Kinsey said. “If he hadn’t come up with this we wouldn’t be there today.”
After the ceremony, Foxx was asked about his plans after his tenure ends next week.
“Who knows,” Foxx said.
He said he wants to spend time understanding the divide between urban and rural America. He isn’t sure if he will stay in Washington, D.C., or come home to Charlotte.