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City Council Committee Advances Billion-Dollar Transportation Plan

Charlotte wants to build a new light rail line from Matthews to the airport as part of a new comprehensive transportation plan.

A Charlotte City Council committee voted Wednesday to move forward with an $8 to $12 billion transportation plan, but several members said they want more information.

The city’s transportation, planning and environment committee voted 4-1 to advance the plan, which would expand the city’s bus system, build a light rail from Matthews to the airport and make other improvements like greenways and sidewalks.

But it wasn’t easy.

Republican Ed Driggs voted "no." He said he’s worried that a "yes" vote would mean he supports the city’s proposal to raise the sales tax by a penny. And he said the city may need a different plan if the General Assembly only gives the city the OK to raise the tax by a smaller amount, like a half-cent.

Even council members who voted "yes" had concerns.

Democrat Braxton Winston says he’s worried the city hasn’t done enough outreach to the community.

And Democrat Julie Eiselt says the city needs a detailed cost-benefit analysis about the best way to spend new any new revenue.

Democrat Larken Egleston agreed, but said a "no" vote would send the wrong signal.

“I do hope we’ll move this forward so we don’t start off with the misperception that this doesn’t even have support among council because I think it does,” he said.

Winston said it’s the council’s "job to bring skepticism to the process.”

He said the city “needs to figure out different ways to move people and goods. We are going to invest in transportation. The answer this year is how much and ambitious we will be?”

The "yes" vote means city staff will continue talking with legislative leaders in Raleigh, as well as officials from neighboring counties.

The tentative plan calls for the state and the federal government to pay for the cost of half of the plan. A penny sales tax would raise between $4 and $6 billion over 30 years.

Voters could decide on the sales tax in November.

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