by Michael Lowrey
In addition to the federal government not pick up half the cost because ridership would be too low, Iredell County not being interested because they fear being stuck with the bill for any cost overruns, and CATS not having enough money to may for the commuter rail line in any case, now comes word that Norfolk Southern is sticking to its guns about not allowing CATS to use the railroad’s tracks for the Red Line. Building separate tracks for CATS will up the cost of the proposed Red Line by another $215 million — an over 50 percent increase.
And then there’s the impact on local communities of adding those extra tracks. From the Charlotte Observer:
CATS said that would cause “multiple disruptions to adjacent communities.”
In Huntersville, for instance, CATS said that Main Street might have to be removed completely for the Red Line to exist alongside the freight tracks.
CATS’ solution to Norfolk Southern’s refusal? They’re hoping the state will convince Norfolk Southern to let CATS use the existing tracks. Of course, CATS is also assuming the state will pick up a quarter of the cost of the line. Given that the state now is now using data-driven metrics to rank projects, the much more likely outcome is that the N.C. Department of Transportation just laughs at CATS.