With how bad the traffic gets on I-77, you’d think that people who live up in the Lake Norman area would be desperate for any kind of mass transit to bring them down toward Uptown.
So why, then, is the mayor of Huntersville trying to kill the Charlotte Area Transit System’s plans to find a new way to build commuter rail to his town?
It’s not as weird as it looks. It all has to do with the long-running disappointment between the city and its northern suburbs.
It all goes back to the late 1990s, when Mecklenburg County first voted to approve a half-cent sales tax to pay for transit projects. Lake Norman voters were among the most enthusiastic in favor of the tax, assured by transit planners that relief would come their way.
Again in 2007, when there was a vote to repeal the transit tax as costs grew rapidly on the Blue Line light rail, Lake Norman voted to keep it in place.
At that time, CATS was planning a commuter rail to be called the Red Line that would run along the Norfolk Southern freight rail lines between Uptown and Huntersville and Mooresville.
That was in the works until 2013, when a new Norfolk Southern president decided he didn’t want to share the rail.
With that off the table, CATS now wants to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new — much more expensive — plan to bring transit to the northern part of the county.
Huntersville Mayor John Anarella is essentially now saying enough is enough.
He’s saying he supports the original plan, but will try to rally support to kill any new plans.
It’s honestly perfectly reasonable. Here are four reasons why.
1) Once CATS says they might build something in a corridor, it’s practically impossible for property owners to build something there. Letting CATS go forward with another decade-long project could slow growth and impinge on property rights.
2) By pursuing a new line, money gets tied up for years and years that could be used elsewhere — like better bus service in northern Mecklenburg.
3) Paying for a new Red Line along a different route would likely take a big tax increase. Northern Mecklenburg has been paying transit sales tax for years with little to show for it.
4) Using the Norfolk Southern tracks is really the best option. Maybe under a new CEO it would be back on the table.