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HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. -- The CATS Red Line commuter rail could be flat-lining due to a projected $215 million price increase because Norfolk Southern doesn't want to share its railroad tracks, and CATS may have to build its own dual track if it wants to make it work.

That price tag could jump even higher because several costs haven't been determined, according to information released by CATS this week.

Officials now have to decide if the project is worth the cost, if they can secure funding to make it happen without Norfolk Southern's lines, or if the plan dies on the tracks.

The original estimated cost is $456 million and is intended to get 5,000 daily drivers off the interstate and onto trains running from Charlotte to Mt. Mourne, which is just south of Mooresville.

Talk of the Red Line at the Davis General Merchandise store along Old Statesville Road gets folks riled up. The tracks the Red Line intended to use are yards away from the front door.

My property line goes through the center of that railroad, store owner Silas Davis said. He supports it as long as it is at the right price.

Give me a break, Silas said about the increased cost. To add another line does not make sense.

It could be alright to have it through here, said neighbor Eddie Davis, no relation.

CATS says other impacts of having to build their own track system instead of using existing lines includes multiple disruptions to neighbors and removing or relocating miles of roads.

One potentially disrupted area is Main Street in Huntersville, where Patsy Scott has cut hair for 39 years.

She's never really bought into a commuter rail line coming along the tracks, and certainly not now with higher costs.

I've never been real impressed with it and I just don't think anything is going to happen in my time, maybe in the next person's time, but not mine, Scott said.

If built, Ada Rinehart would ride it in a minute.

I definitely think this area needs it, she said.

Rinehart has the same question CATS now faces.

Is there money somewhere to pay for it? she asked.

A Red Line task force will review the situation and try to come up with options or solutions when it next meets in September.

Officials say they plan to see if they can get state money to help cover the increased cost. The project isn't receiving federal money because the ridership numbers weren't high enough.

The future of the Red Line isn't the only potential blow to commuters in that area.

Thursday, the NCDOT announced a deal with a company from Spain, Cintra, to build 26 miles worth of toll roads on I-77.

There are serious concerns over Cintra's finances, which includes restructuring billions of dollars in debt on two other toll road projects it is building in Texas and Indiana, according to media reports.

Friday, the NCDOT says Cintra's financial qualifications underwent a robust analysis and several state officials, including the State Treasurer's Office, reviewed the deal and allowed it to move forward.

If for some reason Cintra defaults, all revenue would revert to the state. The deal has Cintra paying $655 million to design, build, operate and maintain the managed lanes in exchange for revenues generated by the toll lanes.

State Senator Jeff Tarte, who represents the Lake Norman area, is pushing for a full review to protect taxpayers in case of default, plus independent verification of the financial modeling for the toll lane project.

The state says doing it this way means toll lanes get done in years, not decades.
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