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Charlotte streetcar meeting slated for next week

http://66.225.205.104/JR20091110.mp3

City officials have postponed a public meeting on the streetcar previously scheduled for this evening at Memorial Methodist Church. Instead, meetings will be held next Tuesday and Thursday. WFAE's Julie Rose reports the city is reintroducing the streetcar project with new wind at its back: The last time Charlotte transit officials held widespread public meetings on the streetcar was three years ago. Then, funding problems pretty much sidelined the project. However, the City Council's recent approval of $4.5 million to begin design work revived it. The streetcar would connect west and east Charlotte along Trade Street. The city has yet to say where it will get $450 million to build the 10-mile line. But Charlotte's new mayor is committed to building it, and President Obama recently said he supports more federal funding for streetcars. Now Charlotte transit officials are coming back to the public with a series of meetings over the next two weeks. Engineer John Mrzygod says it's sort of streetcar "reintroduction." "A lot of people may not have been here three years ago so this might be new to a lot of people," says Mrzygod. "We just don't want to assume that we can pick up where we left off." Mrzygod says another goal of the public meetings is to reassure people that building the streetcar will not be as disruptive as the lengthy construction that closed Elizabeth Avenue for a year and drove several shops out of business. "This is a much more surgical project where we basically excavate a trench and lay the track in that trench," says Mrzygod. "So it will not be like a complete street rebuild like it was on Elizabeth Avenue." Streetcars are a growing trend nationwide with as many as 80 cities making plans.