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Charlotte Talks: CATS CEO John Lewis On Light Rail Extension And The System's Future Plans

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Flickr/Daniel Lobo
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Monday, January 29, 2018

CATS CEO John Lewis shares his "big-idea" plans for the future. Rail to Matthews, Lake Norman and the Airport. Why we need it and how he can get it done.

Ten years after the launch of Charlotte's first light rail line, CATS has announced the opening day for the LYNX Blue Line Extension. After being delayed from an anticipated opening last August, the $1.1 billion light rail project will open to the public on March 16th, in time for the NCAA basketball tournament that weekend.

The 9.3 mile extension will connect uptown through NoDa, up to UNC Charlotte, with the full line ultimately connecting I-485 in south Charlotte to the university. You may have already seen trains running along the tracks in Charlotte's NorthEnd as CATS runs tests and simulations leading up to the opening. Will the extension bring the same economic development to the northern corridor as the city's first line brought to SouthEnd? And what's next for the transit system?

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Credit Erin Keever
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CATS CEO John Lewis

Last year, CATS CEO John Lewis announced plans to bring rail to Matthews, Lake Norman and an extension to the airport all at once. This "Big Bang" approach is ambitious and costly - with estimates of as much as $6 billion. Transit officials are studying the corridors and reevaluating transit plans that were developed in the 1990s, long before the exponential growth the region has experienced in recent decades.

Construction is also underway for phase two of the CityLYNX Gold Line, extending the streetcar line two miles west. And as ridership on CATS buses declines, officials are working to redesign and improve the system. CATS also plans to begin construction this summer on a new transit hub at Gateway Station in uptown with the goal of connecting passenger rail, the Gold Line streetcar and bus service.

There's a lot to talk about, so CATS CEO John Lewis joins Mike Collins for the hour.

Guests

John Lewis – Chief Executive Officer of the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS)

Highlights from today's show:

John Lewis on how CATS will accommodate the increased number of riders:

additional_trains.mp3

John Lewis on the future goals of CATS:

goals.mp3

John Lewis on the best way to fund new infrastructure programs:

funding.mp3

Erin Keever is Senior Producer of WFAE's Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. She has been with the show since joining the station in 2006. She's a native Charlottean.