Light Rail Opening Next Year, More Lines Proposed—Transit Debates Keep Finding Charlotte

An extension of the Lynx Blue Line is schedule to open to the public on March 31, 2018. Controversy regarding sales taxes have traditionally followed transit projects in the region.

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March 12, 2017, 1:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Charlotte Lynx

Kevin M. McCarthy / Shutterstock

[Updated 3/13/2017] Adam Rhew writes of the decade-long history of debate over Charlotte's light rail ambitions, with the opening date for an extension of the Blue Line looming at this time next year.

The Blue Line extension will connect uptown to UNC Charlotte, after an eight-month delay due to "construction coordination challenges, required testing, and safety reviews."

According to Rhew, conservative advocates in the region have vociferously opposed the Lynx Blue Line since it's earliest days (construction began on the system in 2005, and an unsuccessful referendum to repeal Mecklenburg County’s half-cent transit tax appeared on the ballot in November 2007). Despite the decade of opposition and the extension's delays and cost overruns, report CATS CEO John Lewis has "floated an ambitious, $6 billion proposal to build three additional light rail lines—to Matthews, Iredell County, and the airport—at once."

"Doing so would almost certainly require a supplemental transit tax, which will be a tough sell with north Mecklenburg voters, who have been paying the extra half-cent since 1998 with nothing to show for it, and who are increasingly frustrated with transit-related decisions from Raleigh and Charlotte," adds Rhew.

Meanwhile, says Rhew, the existing Blue Line is well used: "the light rail cars are standing-room-only during rush hour and uncomfortably full on Panthers game days." Despite that success, Charlotte looks like a train hurling headlong into another transit funding controversy.

[The article was updated with the correct date for the opening of the Blue Line Extension.]

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