Transit Plan Update – Sept 10 2014

While the Blue Line Extension project forges ahead on schedule and under budget, plans for the Red Line and Silver Line are still in the works. Read on for details about CATS’ plans to meet our regional transit needs through 2030.

At the September 8 2014 City Council Transportation and Planning Committee meeting, Councilmembers were updated by CATS staff on the progress of current and future transit projects in the 2030 Transit Corridor System Plan.

Q: What progress is being made on the Blue Line Extension (BLE)?

A: Lots! The project is on schedule. Utilities are being relocated, retaining walls are being built to support a widened roadway, and Eastway Bridge is being widened.

Q: Is the Blue Line Extension project staying on budget?

A: Even better! The project bids came in approximately $62 million under the projected budget. The surplus will allow additional improvements to be made to the project.

Q: What’s next for the Blue Line Extension? How will construction impact the community?

A: Construction along North Tryon will begin this summer. The BLE Communications team will announce changes in traffic plans.

Q: What’s the status of the Red Line commuter rail north to Mooresville?

A: There are considerable logistical concerns that need to be addressed before the Red Line can be built. Norfolk Southern owns the O-Line, which the Red Line trains would share. Norfolk Southern runs their freight trains on a different track, which it leases on 15 year periods from North Carolina Railroad (NCRR). Norfolk Southern would need permanent access on NCRR’s track before they would consider allowing commuter trains on the O-Line.

Q: How will the Red Line be funded?

A: The project can’t be submitted for funding until logistics with Norfolk Southern are settled. The Red Line would not be eligible for funding from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) because its projected ridership and hours of service are lower than the FTA’s requirements. However, the Red Line would be eligible for NCDOT funding under the Strategic Transportation Investments law as a Regional Needs project because it will cross county lines.

Q: What’s the difference between commuter rail and light rail?

A: There are significant differences in types of equipment, service hours and frequency, and station spacing.

  • Commuter rail uses diesel engines and can share track with freight trains; light rail trains use overhead power and must run on their own track.
  • Commuter trains run mostly during peak commuting hours and on a schedule that’s coordinated with freight trains; light rail runs much more frequently and for longer service hours.
  • Commuter rail stations are spaced much farther apart (average of 5 miles, but can be closer); light rail stations may be only 1/2 mile or less apart.

Q: What’s the status of the Silver Line to Matthews?

A: The Silver Line, currently being called the ‘Southeast Corridor’, is undergoing an Alternatives Analysis by CATS to determine the best transit mode and route.

Q: Will Charlotte ever have a central transportation station in Uptown?

A: After years of uncertainty, it’s looking more promising than ever! Charlotte’s Gateway Station would house Amtrak, Greyhound, local and express bus services, and an adjacent CityLYNX Gold Line streetcar stop. The state has already acquired many lots of land near the site. Norfolk Southern currently runs freight trains through the site, so the state is workng with them to determine track requirements.

Q: Will there ever be rail transit to Charlotte Douglas International Airport?

A: The CityLYNX Gold Line is anticipated to be extended to the airport after 2030.  A light rail project would not be eliglble for Federal Transit Administration funding.

Q: When will we get another update?

A: CATS will present an update to the City Council’s Transportation & Planning Committee approximately every 8 weeks. You can depend on the Transportation Choices Alliance to share updates as we hear them!

Q: Has Phase 2 of the CityLYNX GoldLine streetcar been approved?

A: Yes! At the September 8, 2014 Charlotte City Council meeting, Council members voted 7-4 to approve staff’s request to commit the funds needed to apply for a federal grant that would cover half the cost of Phase 2 of the CityLYNX Gold Line. Phase 2 extends the Phase 1 segment west 2 miles from Charlotte Transportation Center to French Street and east one-half mile along Hawthorne Lane from Presbyterian Hospital to Sunnyside Avenue. Modern streetcar vehicles will replace replica trolleys with the option of purchasing hybrid technology vehicles. CATS anticipates to advance the project as a design, bid, and build project in early 2016. Construction is projected to begin late 2016. Phase 2 service start date is projected in late 2019.

Thanks for reading!

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