Federal and local officials joined the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) to break ground on construction of the LYNX Blue Line extension from downtown Charlotte to the city’s University of North Carolina (UNC) Charlotte campus.
The new extension will double the length of the existing light rail system, create new development opportunities along the line, and significantly expand transit options for thousands of residents and students in the rapidly growing Charlotte region.
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is providing $580 million under a full funding grant agreement for the $1.16 billion project through FTA’s Capital Investment (New Starts) Program. The remaining cost is covered by state and local funding.
“This project will create thousands of jobs during construction, create economic opportunity by connecting the city’s financial, high tech and cultural centers with the thriving UNC Charlotte campus, and give commuters an alternative to sitting in traffic on I-85 and U.S. 29,” said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff. “The Blue Line extension is an important step in providing the world-class transportation system that Charlotte deserves.”
Over the last decade, the Charlotte region, which is home to numerous Fortune 500 companies, has grown faster than any other urban area with a population of one million or more, according to the U.S. Census. Light rail ridership has mirrored that growth, far exceeding expectations with more than 24 million riders since the line opened in 2007, and more than 16,000 riders on an average weekday.
CATS officials estimate that the light rail extension will create approximately 7,600 jobs during construction and more than double total light rail ridership with more than 18,000 additional riders each weekday when the extension opens in 2017.
The 9.3 mile extension will add service along what will become an 18.6-mile light rail corridor in Northeast Charlotte and help to reduce congestion along Interstate 85 and US Route 29, where commercial and residential growth is expected to continue.