Comment and analysis on all things Charlotte

Do They Have the Guts? Iredell Commission Could Do Region a Favor, Kill Uptown Rail Line Tonight

Build it and they will come, the uptown crowd is promising Iredell County commissioners. “They” being the unnamed developers who are somehow miraculously going to get the financing for development along a commuter rail line to Iredell the uptowners want to build.

The Iredell County Commission could stop the waste of hundreds of millions of dollars by laying down on the tracks tonight.

Iredell county commissioners meanwhile want to know who the heck these developers are and where they will come from. It’s an important question, because much of the funding for the line is supposed to come from taxes on this expected development.

The Iredell County Commission could kill the entire $452 million light rail project to Charlotte with a vote tonight, leaving six other governments along the line out of luck — and protected from the same kind of blight the South Boulevard line has wrought along much of South Boulevard, blight I’ve argued has actually done more damage than good to the area and its businesses.

Much to the outrage of the Charlotte Observer and all the right politicians, the Iredell county commissioners are asking difficult questions about building a light rail line to their county for which the former have no answers. Asking legitimate logistical questions is frowned upon by the uptown crowd, and thus the commissioners are feeling the full blast of the uptown crowd’s public disapproval.

But the questions still have no answers.

The Red Line Regional Rail project would upgrade 25 miles of Norfolk Southern rail line from a mile south of the Lowe’s headquarters in Mount Mourne to the planned Charlotte Gateway Station uptown. The line could eventually extend north to Interstate 40 in Statesville. Supporters say the line would spur development along the busy Interstate 77 corridor in the Lake Norman area and southern Iredell County.

Uh, how? Development of what by which developers? Development largely froze along the South Boulevard line and hasn’t resumed since the recession started.

Iredell County Commissioners Chairman Steve Johnson wants to know.

Red Line Regional Rail officials say the corridor could create 23,000 jobs over the life of the project, but Johnson questions who the potential developers and freight customers are for the line. Attracting development would require incentives, so any economic returns for the towns and counties would take years, he said.

Outside of a couple stations along the rail line along the first few stops as you leave uptown, the vast majority of the stops along the existing line have never been developed. Worse yet, rail construction chased off existing struggling businesses, leaving behind a corridor of blight and empty buildings worse than what Charlotte started with.

Even with incentives and $2 million in tax dollars thrown in, the city has been unable to develop rail stations as close in as Scaleybark on South Boulevard. How the heck is anyone going to get developers to sink money into an Iredell line that far outside the center city if we can’t even get Scaleybark going?

Commissioner Renee Griffith wants answers she is never going to get.

“There are a lot of unknowns,” she said. “Where are the customers? In the business model, they’re saying all these customers will come. Where are the commercial customers who will use this line? Why aren’t we partnering with them? Why aren’t we doing a private-public partnership? I would absolutely entertain listening, if all the concerns were addressed and there was a sustainable business model.”

People at least ride the existing line — for now. But that line was built to support bank jobs and jobs that bank jobs support uptown. All of that is now in question as Bank of America struggles for survival so … why not shelve the whole thing for at least a decade and see where we are then? Has development resumed? Are developers coming forward with hopes of building along the rail line?

Iredell commissioners would do the whole region a favor by pulling this monstrosity off the table tonight. Bet they don’t have the courage to do it.

 

 

7 Responses to “Do They Have the Guts? Iredell Commission Could Do Region a Favor, Kill Uptown Rail Line Tonight”

  • Jan
    17
    2012

    I’m praying they finally shoot a silver bullet in this blood sucker….

  • Jan
    17
    2012

    The folks in Iredell need to pull a Pineville and JUST SAY NO TO RAIL.

  • Jan
    17
    2012

    Rejected, 5-0: AWESOME.

    http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/01/17/2936033/iredell-objects-to-red-line-plans.html

  • Jan
    18
    2012

    Davidson residents are already subsidizing a cable company called MI-Connection. It is eating up 1/4 of the town budget and draining the reserves in the process. Now we will be adding on a rail subsidy. How much of this madness can the taxpayers take before there is some kind of a revolt. If we call ourselves “occupiers” maybe we will be able to camp out at various town halls and get coverage from the socialist press. HA!

  • Jan
    18
    2012

    “The Iredell County Commission could kill the entire $452 million light rail project to Charlotte …..”

    Commuter Rail is unequal to light rail. Commuter rail will have larger cars and fewer stops. 12 stops over 25 miles compared to 15 stops over 9.6 miles on the Blue line. The thought that it would spur development is crazy because people wouldn’t be using it to head from Davidson to Cornelius. It will be used to avoid I-77 traffic to get uptown for work. It will be slammed twice a day and empty the rest of the day.

    The question that they aren’t asking/answering is the cost/timeline of expanding I-77 to meet current and future demand versus a commuter train. Can I-77 be expanded to meet demands for the next 20 years? Do we want I-77 to look like I-85 in Atlanta? But that money doesn’t come directly from local governments, so who cares…

  • Jan
    18
    2012

    Here’s an idea: STOP ADDING MORE LANES BEYOND WHAT IS ALREADY PLANNED. (By which I mean: Finish 485 and do the necessary widening of 485 in the Pineville/Matthews stretch.)

    The logic is simple: If people understand that they are NOT guaranteed a quick commute to Mooresville, or Concord/Kannapolis, or Gastonia, or Union County, perhaps they will start filling in the gaps closer to their jobs here in Charlotte. Ideally, people should live CLOSE* to their jobs — if you keep expensively making it easy for them to live far away, they will continue to do so. There has to be a limit of how wide we will build our roads — at some point you have to stop widening them. That time may as well be now.

    * I live three-quarters of a mile from work and I WALK to work.

  • Jan
    18
    2012

    PS: I guarantee you that there are a ton of people in Iredell, Cabarrus, Gaston, Lincoln, and Union Counties who have ZERO interest in coughing up tax dollars to make it easier for people to commute to Charlotte because these people DON’T COMMUTE TO CHARLOTTE. I don’t see why EVERYONE should be forced to pay tax dollars for something that only benefits a select few…

    … for example, the light rail here in Charlotte.

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