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North Corridor Rail Demonstration Project Proposed

Should we Stop Light Rail to Build I-485?
A recent issue of the Charlotte Business Journal carried an article in which a banking official is suggesting we halt construction on the south corridor light rail project in order to concentrate on completing I-485. John Silva, chief economist at Wachovia, believes building the other belt might create office and residential developments that someday might have need for light rail.

Encouraging urban sprawl will actually create the very type of development that has no use for light rail, while at the same time damage inner city neighborhoods that do depend on it. Mr. Silva claims to have an extensive background studying mass transit yet he makes some inaccurate statements and comes to some illogical conclusions. He tries to convince us that Charlotte is not ready for light rail. He is quoted as saying New York, Chicago and Atlanta have light rail, when in fact they have heavy rail systems. There is a big difference as heavy rail is almost totally grade separated, much higher capacity, and vastly more expensive. This is not what we are talking about here in Charlotte.

Mr. Silva is quoted as saying "Is this (light rail) something that is going to make money or be a tourist convenience that is heavily subsidized?" This is a strange statement for someone who has an "extensive background" studying mass transit, for he should know no mass transit system in the country makes money. His statements sound strangely like the words of our former city councilman, Don Reid.

Mr. Silva makes it sound like we must choose either light rail or I-485, when the two are completely separate issues. Charlotte's share of the $348 million that is being spent to build the South Corridor light rail for mass transit use only. None of this money could or should be spent building I-485. Have any of the 20 or more other cities around the country, projects in order to build another highway? We haven't heard of any! Having an alternative to more highways in the very reason these mass transit systems are being built.

Mr. Silva wants more facts regarding the South Corridor light rail project. We are wondering if he attended the dozens of public hearings that have been held over the course of the last couple years, where many of his questions were already answered. Additional meetings are planned.

July, 2002