Feds Approve $70M For Blue Line Light Rail Extension

Feds Approve $70M For Blue Line Light Rail Extension

February 15, 2012

The federal government on Tuesday committed $70 million for a project to extend Charlotte’s Lynx Blue Line Light Rail, paving the way for the expected grant agreement to be approved in the fall to fully fund completion of the project.

During a national media teleconference, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Transit Administration chief Peter Rogoff praised the 9-mile extension between uptown and UNC Charlotte while recommending another $70 million for the project, known as the Blue Line Extension.

“We have $70 million in our budget for Charlotte’s 9.3-mile extension of the Lynx blue line up into the campus of UNC Charlotte,” Rogoff said. “It’s going to connect that campus with downtown and bring a lot of economic development along the way.”

“It was a very good day for us,” said Carolyn Flowers, the CEO of the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS). What’s called a “Full Funding Grant Agreement” is expected to be signed later this year. It would commit the government to spending $450 million in construction money. CATS and the state would then each kick in 25 percent towards the total $1 billion project.

If those steps occur as scheduled, construction would start in 2013, with the line to be ready five years later.

The existing 10-mile Lynx line opened in 2007. It runs from Pineville to uptown and cost $463 million, more than double the initial estimates. A half-cent transit tax passed in 1998, and reaffirmed nine years later in a repeal referendum, provides local funds for major transit projects in the area.

Between 15,000 and 15,500 people ride the Lynx each day, CATS says. By 2025, ridership is projected to reach 18,300. For the Blue Line, estimates are for 19,000 riders in 2018, increasing to 25,000 by 2030.

“We do not expect anything to derail it,” Rogoff said. “We are very, very supportive of this project. It’s going to be an important alternative to the congestion in the I-85-U.S. 29 corridor. … Right now, we don’t see any show-stoppers on the horizon.”

Already, Washington has contributed $37 million to preliminary work on the Blue Line, according to the transportation department. CATS and the state have added $20 million each.

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