by Jeff Taylor
It has now been over a year since we had rumblings that the previous total for the South Blvd. light rail line — $427 million — was too low. And it has been just about one year since CATS CEO Ron Tober gave us a new number of $462.7 million.
Since then, nada. Just repeated talk that everything is fine. Fine despite an ongoing dispute with a steel subcontractor that started in January, ballooned into multiple court cases, and had the Federal Transit Administration checking the line for use of foreign steel, a violation of federal funding rules. Fine despite repeated whispers that outlying sections of the project have proven far more difficult to complete than anticipated.
Of course, the minute the half-cent transit tax repeal was certified for the fall ballot in June, the chances we’d hear any more bad news from or about CATS plunged. Add to that an election year for the Charlotte city council, and the no-news is good-news bias is overwhelming.
I’m putting up $100 that says that the final official price tag of the South line will be more than $462.7 million.
Charlotte’s pro-tax, pro-train lobby should line up to take my money — if they really believe what they say. If everything is really fine with the South line, this is a gimme.
Let’s see if that happens.
Bonus Observation: Of course, I’m being very generous in even granting that the price tag is not already over $462.7 million. That number includes none of the $40 million thrown away on the South End Trolley — the “catalyst” for the corridor according to city officials. Nor does it include any of the $73 million in infrastructure spending associated with the South line. Accordingly, the real world cost of the South line is already somewhere between $500 and $550 million. But I’m trying to play by their rules.