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DavidsonNews.net: As Towns Complete Reviews, Red Line Task Force To Meet

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The Metropolitan Transit Commission's Red Line Task Force is scheduled to meet Wednesday afternoon in Charlotte, where members will get updates on the proposed rail project and on revisions to the draft business and finance plan, and discuss plans for new station in Charlotte and a relocated station in the Mount Mourne area, south of Mooresville. The meeting will run from 4-5 p.m. at Charlotte Mecklenburg Gov't Center, 600 E. 4th St., Charlotte. The meeting comes as local governments have begun to weigh in with their concerns about the proposed financing plan. The proposed 25-mile rail line would run from Charlotte to Mooresville. A December estimate put the line's cost at $452 million in 2018 dollars, though officials say that figure could be revised after a new study of necessary track improvements with track owner Norfolk Southern Corp. The Task Force unveiled a draft business and finance plan in December and has asked town and county governments along the line to offer feedback. The plan has run into opposition from Iredell County, some elected officials in towns along the line, and from Norfolk Southern. At Wednesday's meeting, the task force also will review the local government feedback and what happens next. Task Force Chair John Woods, who is Davidson's mayor, has said the next step - revising the Red Line plan to incorporate all the feedback - could be delayed while officials consider the impact of Norfolk Southern's request for additional study. Norfolk Southern has said a new study would be lengthy and costly, and could take years. The Red Line Task Force is a subcommittee of the Metropolitan Transit Commission. Members include Mr. Woods, Mayor Jeff Tarte of Cornelius, Mayor Jill Swain of Huntersville, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, Mayor Miles Atkins of Mooresville, Executive Director Bill Thunberg of Lake Norman Transportation Commission. Seats for both Iredell and Mecklenburg counties are vacant. Most local governments have completed their reviews of the Red Line business plan, and submitted questions and concerns to the task force and consultants. Cornelius Commissioners approved a report and recommendations from the Cornelius Rail Task Force on March 19. The Cornelius report includes 15 recommendations, or requirements, ranging from written proof that Norfolk Southern and the state of North Carolina will participate to information about the sources of funding and a timetable for the widening of I-77. Mooresville's committee issued a final report March 19, saying that the proposed funding structure "appears to be sound and appropriate." It noted that bond underwriters ultimately would determine if the project can obtain the private funding needed. Mooresville officials want reassurance that the state will step in to cover shortfalls, as pledged in the business plan, and that there would be "no recourse" against the town if the project fell short of money. Mooresville officials also expressed concern about the plan to share future tax revenues from Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts around the rail line. The towns would pledge 75 percent of the anticipated future increases in tax revenues around the stations to the rail line. Officials wonder if the remaining 25 percent will be enough to cover the cost of serving new development. Download the agenda for Wednesday's meeting on the Task Force web page. (PDF) Read more about the Red Line on the project site, RedLineRegionalRail.org, including a new detailed map of "special assessment districts" where commercial property owners would be asked to vote on annual fees to help pay a portion of the line's cost. The website also includes links to local government reports and recommendations.