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Council reluctantly approves stimulus project

The cty of Charlotte expects all the stimulus money it receives this round for transportation will be spent on improving the timing of its traffic lights. That's estimated to cost $4 million. City council reluctantly voted 8-2 last night to support the plan. But several city council members made it clear they're unhappy with the city's portion of the stimulus money and how it will be used. Charlotte does not expect to receive stimulus money for building roads in this round of funding. Rather, it's likely the city will get $4 million to install 30 cameras and fiber-optic cable to coordinate the timing of traffic signals. This did not sit will with Charlotte Mayor Pat McCory. "It's supposed to be the stimulus package and we're buying cameras with it? Which I guess there's some stimulus, someone has to put up the cameras which is a little bit of a job. But it's not like we're hiring engineers and architects that are hurting in this community," argued McCrory. The mayor and a few city council members quizzed Danny Pleasant, the director of Charlotte's Department of Transportation about why the $20 million for Mecklenburg and Union Counties couldn't be spent on one large road project. Pleasant said plans aren't far enough along on any sizable project to qualify for stimulus money. "I believe that any time we can do intelligent transportation systems where we can coordinate traffic signals, monitor traffic, manage congestion is probably the best bang for the buck," said Pleasant. "So you're recommending that over any road project inside the city limits?" asked McCrory. "Given the choices we're faced with I think that'll do a lot of good for the citizens of Charlotte," replied Pleasant. The transportation planning board for Mecklenburg and Union counties is deciding how the area will spend the $20 million. City Council member Anthony Foxx represents Charlotte on the board. "All of us would want to see lots of projects come in for Charlotte. The reality is our professional staff is telling us there aren't significant road projects that qualify for funding," said Foxx. The City Council reluctantly told Foxx to vote for the plan that along with the money for traffic lights allots $14 million for widening Sam Furr Road in Huntersville and divides $2 million between Indian Trail, Matthews, Waxhaw, and Davidson. The state has already decided to use $25 million in stimulus money to pay for widening Highway 51 from Pineville to the South Carolina border and re-building Highway 218 from I-485 to U.S. 74 in Anson County. The planning group is scheduled to vote March 18th on how to spend the additional money.