Friday, September 26, 2008

Charlotte Space Race Update

In the comments of the last Charlotte post, frequent commenter J sends us to an article about the federal application for new starts funding for the Northeast Corridor in Charlotte. It's fascinating because apparently Keith Parker who is the head of the transit authority, wants to bundle three projects together for funding. The Northeast Corridor light rail line, platform extensions for the South Corridor (since its so far over ridership they need more capacity) and the North Corridor commuter rail line.

Parker wants to bundle three projects. The first is an 11-mile extension of the Lynx to University City, which is now projected to cost $900 million. The commuter rail line to the Lake Norman area could cost between $250 and $310 million. CATS is also penciling in $50million to improve the existing light rail line. It wants to extend station platforms to handle three-car trains and also wants to buy additional rail cars.

It seems like these package deals are starting to catch on as regions are seeking to build more than one line at a time. The FTA is going to get more of these after they made the deal that they did with Salt Lake City paying for 20% of their four lines.
In August 2007, FTA and UTA executed a Memorandum of Understanding to set forth their mutual expectations for Federal financial participation in two of five projects that comprise UTA’s “Transit 2015 Program.” UTA was seeking a combined $570 million in Section 5309 New Starts funding for the Mid-Jordan and Draper LRT extensions. In return, UTA made a commitment to build, by 2015, the West Valley City and Airport LRT extensions, as well as the South Front Runner (commuter rail) extension without Federal financial assistance. The current total capital cost estimate for the five projects in the Transit 2015 Program is $2.85 billion.
Now CATS will try a similar deal getting more out of the process. What this tells me is that the process that exists now doesn't really work for regions. They are looking to fill in the gaps that were missing in the last 60 years and there is just not enough money from any source to do it.

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