CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Charlotte Area Transit System announced Tuesday morning that is has an official deal with the federal government to pay for half of the $1.16 billion light-rail extension to University City — the last hurdle before construction can begin.
The 9.3-mile Blue Line extension will connect uptown to NoDa, then run along North Tryon Street before it terminates at UNC-Charlotte, which has long been a dream of university leaders.
The signing of what’s known as a Full Funding Grant Agreement could be the last major transit construction announcement for years, as CATS struggles to raise enough money to build other projects promised in 1998 and 2007.
Several city leaders were at the news conference at the old 9th Street Trolley stop, which will become the first new station for the light-rail extension.
“This is another step forward in developing a first-rate transportation system for the region that increases our competitiveness, attracts jobs and enhances mobility for all of our citizens,” said Mayor Foxx in a statement. “The project itself will generate over 7,000 jobs during the construction phase and infuse $250 million in payroll into the local economy. We are not done building our transit system but this announcement is nothing less than a grand slam home run.”
Under the deal, the FTA will spend $580 million for the extension. The N.C. Department of Transportation will spend $299 million, or 26 percent of construction costs.
CATS — using revenue from the half-cent sales tax for transit — will spend $281 million, or 24 percent.
“We are pleased that President Obama, Secretary LaHood and Administrator Rogoff have provided the funding partnership to allow CATS to expand the state’s first light rail line connecting one end of the county to the other,” said CATS CEO Carolyn Flowers in a statement. “Once completed in 2017, the LYNX Blue Line will provide the region with a congestion-free, consistent travel time from south Charlotte to northeast Charlotte.”
The transit system recently spent $87 million to buy 22 new light-rail cars from Siemens. That money is part of the overall $1.16 billion cost.