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Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles says transit can be about more than buses, trains

Greenway path
Steve Harrison
/
WFAE

Voters approved three major bond packages from the city of Charlotte in last week’s midterm elections, and transportation projects will be some of the main beneficiaries. Of the $226 million in bonds, $146.2 million will go to transportation infrastructure.

Mayor Vi Lyles joined Charlotte Talks Wednesday morning for her monthly check-in. Lyles said public transit isn’t just about buses and light rail, and that the bond money will help Charlotte build more options for people to get around.

"Transit can be bikeways, it can be greenways, all of these opportunities that we have," she said. "And so we are trying to make sure we progress along our infrastructure,. so that we can build some of those things out."

The bond money is expected to fund projects including street and intersection improvements, bike lanes, new bridges and more. Charlotte has invested more in bicycle infrastructure in recent years, including the new $7.1 million uptown bike lanes, and Lyles said more can be done.

"The council, I think, two years ago accelerated that bike plan. And that made a real difference in creating and connecting a lot of the information that bike riders needed for new pathways to get into work," said Lyles.

But the City Council is still wrestling with big questions about how to fund major transit projects like the $13.5 billion Charlotte Moves plan. That would require a 1-cent sales tax in Mecklenburg County, which the city would need permission from the General Assembly to place on the ballot for a local referendum. There's been no movement toward that yet.

City Council is also weighing whether to rebuild the central bus station underground. Consultants for the Charlotte Area Transit System and a private developer have endorsed that plan, which would cost about $90 million. The development would also include a tower with offices, retail and a new hotel on top. The city would partner with a private developer to build it.

Lyles said that building a project that serves goals beyond transit requires cooperation with a private developer. She called the transit center site "a piece of property in our center city that’s fairly significant."

"And whether or not we are going to have an investment in a project that serves both CATS, but also serves the opportunity for growth and other opportunities, that means participating in a private-public partnership," Lyles said.

City Council will decide how to rebuild the bus station in the coming months. The remaining $79 million in bonds will go to affordable housing and neighborhood improvements.

You can listen to the full episode here.

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Kenny is a Maryland native who began his career in media as a sportswriter at Tuskegee University, covering SIAC sports working for the athletic department and as a sports correspondent for the Tuskegee Campus Digest. Following his time at Tuskegee, he was accepted to the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program as a Marketing Intern for The NASCAR Foundation in Daytona Beach, Florida in 2017.