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Transit Update on the University Corridor
Transit Update on the University Corridor

CEMT believes light rail offers the most viable and attractive form of transit for the future in this corridor which links the University area with the Center City.  Additional bus frequencies using I-85 and North Graham Street, and serving the scattered business locations in University City , the IBM Research Park, and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte could be instituted to build transit ridership preceding completion of the rail line.

Use of the abandoned IBM rail spur in Derita and additional land purchases would fashion a light rail line linking the Uptown area with Derita, the IBM Research Park, UNCC, and a major park-and-ride and transfer station at I-485 and NC Highway 49.   This scenario would create the synergy for more intensive commercial, business and residential development along a dedicated corridor.

The busway concept offered by the Transit Land Use Consultants in 1998 does not foster this increased development potential.   It attempts to serve the already existing work and commercial areas taking a defeatist approach to making any smart growth and transit friendly improvements to the area.   The proposed routing of buses is so circuitous it seems unlikely many would realistically consider the service as an alternative to driving from the University area to the Center City.

CEMT envisions the northern terminus of the light rail line would be at I-485 on right of way parallel to the Norfolk Southern Railway east of NC 49.  Ample land still exists there for construction of a large park and ride facility similar to what is proposed for the South Corridor at I-485 north of Pineville.  Future Charlotte-Concord commuter/regional rail service to Concord/Kannapolis, and possibly as far north as Salisbury, could stop there enabling transfers to and from light rail.   CEMT envisions the commuter/ regional rail using the existing Norfolk Southern rail corridor through Newell and North Charlotte.

From that point the light rail line would proceed south skirting the north side of the campus of UNCC before turning west heading toward the University City/ University Memorial Hospital area.  From this point the line would parallel Harris Blvd. crossing I-85, then crossing Harris Blvd. near the First Union complex.  From First Union the line could pick up the old IBM rail spur right of way , or other alternate routing to reach the Norfolk Southern Railroad right of way along Sugar Creek Road and North Graham Street.

Strong consideration should be given to using transit sales tax money to obtain the old IBM spur and/or other land needed to make the light rail routing through the Research Park possible.

After reaching the Norfolk Southern rail alignment in Derita the light rail line would parallel the existing rail line preferably on the east side.  Investigation could be made to determine the possibility of light rail sharing trackage with DMU trains, which are proposed for the North corridor to the Lake Norman area.   Freight traffic on this line could operate at night after light rail and regional rail traffic has ended.   If this is determined to be infeasible then new trackage, preferably on the east side, parallel to the existing NS may have to be built.  This may require moving the NS line to the west to allow two tracks for light rail, and a grade separation for the freight interchange and wave at Atando Avenue.

The NS line is slated for regional rail service from the Lake Norman area.  Light rail could serve all stops between Derita and Uptown,  allowing regional/commuter rail to run non stop between the two points.  Transfers between each service could be made at the station stop in Derita, or further south near I-85.

Reaching the Statesville Avenue railroad crossing light rail would bend southeast on road side reservation following the west side of Statesville Avenue and North Graham Street to 10th Street.  Here light rail would turn east using the median of 10th Street to Church Street.  At this point 10th Street could probably be closed to auto traffic allowing light rail a dedicated right of way to North Tryon Street.

The Hal Marshall County Services Center on North Tryon Street and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police annex on College Street have attracted much interest from developers recently. If cleared for redevelopment light rail could be integrated into the new projects as it moves east from North Tryon Street crossing College Street and connecting with the north end of the South Corridor light rail service just north of 9th Street.

It should be noted that this routing of light rail for the University Corridor would facilitate run through service with the South Corridor leading to more efficient utilization of equipment and operations of both corridors.  It also brings service from both corridors through the city's East Trade Street Transit Center.  At the same time University Corridor riders would have access to the State's new Inter-city Intermodal Terminal on West Trade Street through transfers in Derita.  North Corridor regional rail passengers would have access to the East Trade Street Transit Center through transfers to light rail at the same point.

There has already been interest expressed in constructing a light rail/trolley corridor linking the South Corridor light rail at it's north end near 9th Street with the West Trade Street Terminal.  This would be via 10th Street,  Smith Street and right of way parallel to the Norfolk Southern mainline between 9th Street and West Trade Street.    Our light rail proposal would use this proposed alignment between College Street and Graham Street.

CEMT believes while construction costs are higher than the busway proposal offered by consultants in 1998,  light rail is in the best interests of the community for efficient, viable, and attractive transit service from the University area to the Center City for many years into the 21st Century.