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Ribbon-Cutting, Ground-Breaking And Heavy Lifting Ahead For CATS

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MONDAY, JAN. 9

Charlotte Area Transit System CEO John Lewis joins Mike Collins to discuss the milestones in store for 2017, including the opening of the Blue Line Extension and groundbreaking of the next segment of the streetcar.

2017 is shaping up to be a year of ribbon-cutting, ground-breaking and heavy-lifting for Charlotte’s transit system.

In a few months, the next segment of the city’s signature light rail line is set to open, connecting uptown with the university area with an estimated daily ridership of more than 25,000.

This month, construction begins on the next phase of the city’s streetcar line, adding another two and a half miles east and west of uptown.

However, that’s not where the heavy-lifting is taking place. Transit officials are forging ahead with ambitious plans for building additional rail lines. But they’re doing so without a clear plan for paying for those projects as part of the region's long-range transit blueprint. A 2013 estimate found a $5 billion deficit for funding all of the transit projects envisioned for the region.

At the same time, the transit system is looking to revise its bus system to keep up with growth and changing needs.

"What we want to do is bring those plans together, and then have a really open discussion with the community about how we bring that system forward," Charlotte Area Transit System CEO John Lewis told Charlotte Talks host Mike Collins.

Lewis said a public-private partnership will "probably" be needed to "bring these corridors online" by 2030.

Federal dollars helped build the light rail and streetcar lines. Will there be enough federal bucks to continue Charlotte’s transit expansion?

"We shall see," Lewis said, adding he is "encouraged by the fact" that President-elect Trump's nominee for transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, "is a known entity, is no stranger" to the Department of Transportation, where Chao served as deputy secretary in the George H.W. Bush administration.

GUESTS

John Lewis, Jr., chief executive officer, Charlotte Area Transit System (@johnlewcats)

Mary Newsom, associate director, urban and regional affairs, UNC Charlotte Urban Institute (@marynewsom)