CHARLOTTE – Charlotte City Council’s plans to discuss the proposed LYNX Silver Line were put on hold once again.
The council was supposed to vote on whether to start pre-project development at its Oct. 28 meeting after asking the Charlotte Area Transit System to gather more concrete cost estimates. While pre-project development will cost $50 million councilmembers wanted a plan of how the city will pay for the project and what federal and state funding will look like.
It was announced at the city’s transportation and planning committee that morning that the council would not vote on whether to star pre-project development until Nov. 12. Assistant City Manager Taiwo Jaiyeoba said planning staff and CATS will be able to present options for local funding after Nov. 5, when voters will decide whether to support a quarter-cent sales tax to fund the arts.
“We felt that next week’s vote will really help us to address how you deal with sources of funding as well,” Jaiyeoba said. “Nov. 12 gives us an opportunity to have more information for you when it comes to that.”
CATS Executive Director John Lewis told the city’s transportation and planning committee that based on the Blue Line and Blue Line Extension projects, 50% of funding would come from the federal government, 25% of funding would come from the state and 25% of funding would come from the city. Because the estimated final cost for the project is over $3 billion, Lewis said the city would most likely contribute $1 billion to the project.
He said CATS and planning staff are looking at options the city has for funding the project, from public-private partnerships to sales and property taxes, but they need to start pre-project development to come up with a concrete plan.
“At the end, trying to do that based on a guess doesn’t give us a whole lot of faith in what those potential sources should be,” Lewis said.
Some councilmembers on the committee were confused about delaying the vote, stating they were ready to vote on the matter that night and wanted to show a commitment to building the Silver Line.
“The community needs to hear that we are committed as a council to building our public transportation infrastructure,” Braxton Winston said. “That is going to have to include lines like the Silver Line. We’ve been building railroads in America since 1837 and it’s always been expensive and we’ve always found ways to do that. I think the real cost to this is not doing it.”
Councilmember Julie Eiselt defended colleagues who wanted more information. She said councilmembers understand they need to start pre-project development to get more information and federal funding, but they need to know how they are going to pay for the final project.
“The reason we’re delaying this vote to November is because councilmembers have asked for more detail on what the possible cost structure would be, how we’re going to pay for it, an estimate to what it would cost and how it would be paid for,” Eiselt said.
Councilmembers Dimple Ajmera and Greg Phipps said they were already on board with the project. Phipps said he felt that the council was sending “mixed signals” to their constituents by continuing to delay the vote.