Friday, June 22, 2012

Tumult ongoing for Charlotte LRT extension

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North Carolina's state legislature Thursday approveda budget that restores state funding contributions for Charlotte's $1 billion Lynx Blue Line light rail extension to University City. The extension's prospects have been volatile in recent weeks.

Charlotte city officials have fought hard for the state fiscal aid, which would account for about 25% of the full project cost. Charlotte itself is contributing 25% of the total, with federal funding anticipated to cover 50%.

The state Senate earlier had voted to provide no money for the project, but LRT proponents vocally asserted that without a state contribution, federal funding for the extension would be forfeited. The Federal Transit Administration already has indicated it expects to grant a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) for the extension this fall.

But funding still remains uncertain, since proposed cuts to other programs may prompt Gov. Bev. Perdue to veto the overall budget bill. Republicans hold the majority of seats in both state legislative houses.

The city's 9.6-mile LYNX Blue Line, operated by Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS), opened for revenue service in November 2007.

Also still unresolved is a funding commitment for Charlotte's proposed four-mile initial streetcar line. The City Council is expected to vote again Monday on funding for the streetcar project, after council members opposed to funding levels proposed for the project rejected a budget plan June 11.