After reading my recent story about the cautionary note Atlanta's recent snowstorm mess sounds for Charlotte's future growth, City Council member Claire Fallon called to say she's more determined than ever to push for an east-west light rail line. She says she can't see redevelopment coming to east Charlotte without it.
"I'd take it from Sunset (Road in northwest Charlotte) to Monroe (Road in southeast Charlotte) with a spur to the airport," she told me. "I don't think it's practical to even consider not doing it. This is getting to be a big city with a lot of people coming to it. You're going to have to find" ways to move them.
What about the much-debated east-west streetcar line, the first leg of which is already under construction? Not the long-term answer, Fallon says. She believes it's going to take light rail to reshape development patterns on the east and west sides. She supported the City Council's recent move to spend $12 million for engineering work on the 2.5-mile streetcar section running through the center city, but she's not sounding like she's on board with the long-term plan to extend the line from Beatties Ford Road in the west to the old Eastland Mall in the east. She says if she could have her way, she'd tie the current streetcar plan into an east-west light rail system.
To call it a longshot would be putting it mildly. Such a project would be eye-poppingly costly. And the city's already struggling to find money for the much less-expensive streetcar project. But she's scheduled meetings with CATS officials to talk about how to make an east-west light rail line happen. "I think they think I'm nuts," she adds, chuckling. "At least let's start the dialogue. I figure there's a 30-year build-out. I figure the first ten will be people talking and saying, 'This is ridiculous, we can't do it.'"
"But we're going to have to do something. We can't stay the way we are and move people."
Knowing the passions the streetcar alone has aroused, all I could think of to say in response was, "Well, good luck..."
What do you think of her idea?