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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Planes, trains and automobiles were the topics of conversation Friday in south Charlotte as the who's who of Queen City transportation discussed the future of travel in the region and how to keep it competitive.

And to do that, Charlotte Aviation Director Jerry Orr said the airport needs to expand.

We strive to be number one all the time, Orr said.

Construction is already well underway on checkpoint E at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, and Orr hopes North Carolina's largest airport will one day compete in size with Atlanta's airport.

Charlotte Area Transportation System's Director, Carolyn Flowers, was also on hand at the transportation summit and said ridership has surpassed 20-year projections.

Plans to expand the CATS system and open the blue light rail extension are still on track for 2017, Flowers said.

We're going out to UNCC's campus. We'll be able to connect the uptown campus with the main campus, Flowers noted.

The summit also brought officials from around the southeast. Some came to take a close look at the SouthEnd neighborhood and hoped to learn how urban housing, close to public transportation, can cut down on congestion in their cities.

I think Charlotte is actually in some ways pointing the way for Atlanta to learn some things, said Atlanta Regional Commission Director Doug Hooker.

A lot of the development that we're seeing alongside of the Lynx system is showing the kind of communities that can grow up close to transit, Hooker added.

But the big question remains, 'How will Charlotte continue to pay for these projects?' There is a proposal to raise property tax for those living in the city, but City Council has not yet approved that proposal.

We do know that transportation infrastructure is the most critical element as our community grows, said Natalie English, Senior Vice President of Public Policy for Charlotte s Chamber of Commerce. So we've got to do something.

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