CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory was among state and local officials at a groundbreaking for the extension of Charlotte's light rail.
Along with the governor, federal transit administrator Peter Rogoff and Mayor Patsy Kinsey attended Thursday's groundbreaking. Officials say the line extension means 18,000 weekday riders and 7,000 new jobs.
At the groundbreaking, Mayor Kinsey said, "We take another step forward in advancing rapid transit."
The $1.1 billion project will connect the city's downtown to the UNC-Charlotte campus, adding 11 new stations. Four stations will have park-and-ride lots. Federal funds will account for more than half of the money for the 9.2-mile expansion, which is scheduled to open in 2017.
The announcement is hitting close to home for and work for A.J. Strickland, a barber at All Texture Barber Salon in NoDa.
"We're going to be two blocks away from where the station at 25th Street is going to be... It will mean more foot traffic, be better for all the businesses around here," Strickland said.
'More' is the key word-- more access around town for people needing more transportation options.
"Access to jobs, access to higher education, access to cultural and entertainment, access to a better life," Mayor Kinsey said.
More students are registering at UNCC, needing a way to get to school and back without burning precious gas money.
It also means more cars off congested highways.
It's also a big payoff for a billion dollars of your tax money, says Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff.
"They'll get home in time to see that little league game. They will get home in time to have dinner with their family," Rogoff said.
There will be more private investment along the light rail line itself. Officials say light rail in south Charlotte prompted $1.4 billion in new investment.
There will be 11 light rail stations along the route, plus four parking lots.
The $462 million Lynx Blue Line opened in 2007. Running 9.6 miles between downtown Charlotte and Interstate 485, the line averages about 15,000 passenger trips on a typical weekday. The new route will add thousands of riders.
Gov. McCrory called the extension the fulfillment of a dream and he thanked leaders past and present for the vision of the light rail.
"This is a completion of a vision that started 15 or 16 years ago and to see this completed is one of the highlights of my public service career," McCrory said.