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CATS And FTA Celebrate $18 Million Gift For Lynx Line

http://66.225.205.104/LM20111220.mp3

The Charlotte Area Transit System hopes a few years from now it will be able to increase capacity on the Lynx light rail by adding an extra car on each of its trains. An $18 million federal grant is helping CATS begin work on that. The Federal Transit Administrator was in town Tuesday to tout the gift. The grant was announced last week, but the celebration happened Tuesday complete with a White House official at a Lynx station. Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff presented one of those huge, over-sized checks for photo-ops. "President Obama congratulates you, Secretary LaHood congratulates you, and so do I," said Rogoff. The grant will allow CATS to expand up to three stations to handle three-car trains. Initially, this was the plan for the line. But CATS decided to trim costs by only building stations that could handle two-car trains. Since the Lynx opened in 2007 ridership has far exceeded expectations. The line was built in large part with federal funds. Rogoff said the FTA should have supported three-car trains from the get-go. The event was a chance to talk up both the gift and the current administration. "When President Obama and Secretary LaHood came in we reversed many of those rules because we're not about holding people back from their vision," said Rogoff. "As the Obama administration has done continually through its transportation investments, we want to help people achieve that vision." The Lynx has fifteen stations, so CATS will still have to find more money if it wants to upgrade all of those stations, says CATS CEO Carolyn Flowers. "It will probably, I'm saying, somewhere around 50 million dollars to do the entire retrofit in total. So this is the beginning for us," says Flowers. She expects CATS will complete construction on the three stations in 2015. Once those are ready, CATS could choose to run express trains for special events. CATS is also competing for federal funds to extend the line north to UNC Charlotte. Rogoff says the FTA fully expects to fund that project, but it's not clear yet to what amount.