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NC Budget Includes Money For Light Rail, Not For Garden Parkway

North Carolina lawmakers have passed a budget that includes money for light rail from Uptown Charlotte to the University area. But it doesn't set aside any money for the proposed Garden Parkway toll road. Twenty-five million dollars for the light rail made it into this year's budget. Like last year it was a close call. The House wanted it and the Senate did not. The Federal Transit Administration has said it's likely the agency will pay for half of the project. But the state has to pitch in a quarter of the line's $1.16 billion cost. Charlotte officials worried they'd lose the federal funding, if the money wasn't in the state budget. More money for the project next year is not guaranteed. The funding is set up so lawmakers have to approve the amount going to the light rail line each year. The Garden Parkway received no money in this year's budget. The proposed toll road would connect I-485 near the airport to I-85 just west of Gastonia. That lack of money doesn't doom the project. In fact, Jim Trogdon, a top official with the state Department of Transportation, says the money isn't needed this year because he expects lawsuits will delay the road. He wrote that in a letter to lawmakers last week. That letter became the subject of a lot of controversy after the Governor's Office changed it to say the money is needed right away.