Transit Funding Woes Mean Bigger Fee From Consultant
It's still unclear how local officials will be able to pay for a light rail line from Uptown to UNC Charlotte, but tonight the Charlotte City Council will be asked to almost double its fee for a transit consultant working on the project. Charlotte's new price tag for a three-year contract with Philadelphia consultant Jeffrey Parker is almost $792,000. The original plan was to pay Parker $445,000 for help coming up with the best way to fund new LYNX and commuter rail projects in the region. But the price tag is going up as Charlotte's need for expertise rises, says Mayor Anthony Foxx. "Let's say we don't look at innovative strategies and don't bring in expertise to help us do that? Then we're looking at our next transit project happening you know maybe 15-20 years from now," said Mayor Foxx during a Friday press conference. The Metropolitan Transit Commission, which Mayor Foxx leads, believes it can build a light rail to UNC Charlotte and get a commuter rail to the Lake Norman area within ten years. But that will require some fancy financing and substantial support from private businesses, because tax revenues won't suffice. Plus, Congress has now banned the use of budget earmarks which Charlotte officials were counting on to pay half of the light rail cost. All the more reason to lock in a top-dollar consultant, says Mayor Foxx. "We've got to think outside the box," adds Foxx. "We've gotta think about public private partnerships and innovative financing strategies and what Parker is bringing to the table is the expertise to help us work through that." Tonight the city council will vote on a new, larger contract for Jeffrey A. Parker and Associates. Tomorrow and Wednesday evenings, CATS will hold public meetings on a new, scaled-back plan for the Lynx Blue Line Extension to North Charlotte.