The obviously failing Red Line Rail effort championed by our liberal-leaning North Meck mayors in concert with Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx and Gov. Beverly Perdue’s Department of Transportation is welcome news for taxpayers. The real tragedy however is that this aggressive, extremely well-organized, and high energy initiative could have been profoundly constructive for regional transportation if focused on our true priorities.

The Red Line never made common sense. This gigantic (likely double the $452 million estimate per most prior experience nationally) government project intended to build commuter rail from Mooresville to Gateway Station (near Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte; several blocks from Trade & Tryon). Astonishingly, there were never current or even planned rail connections anywhere (e.g. SouthPark, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the airport – none, ever). Less than 3 percent of commuters would ride the train routinely. The hyper growth ($5 billion worth) required to finance the project would either not have happened at even a fraction of forecast or would have created extreme new stresses on our roads, schools and other public services – forcing our tax rates up dramatically.

Predictably, the Red Line has now been fully revealed as lacking any real support:

• Norfolk Southern, the actual owner of the rail line has no interest. Norfolk Southern’s shocking letter to the department of transportation last week established firmly their opposition to the project on numerous, fundamental grounds. Those concerns included liability protection costs, Norfolk Southern control, expired environmental review, needed infrastructure, unrealistic timelines, legal challenges – their list is long.

• Local property owners who must approve paying the special assessment district tax are virtually all saying “no way, makes no sense economically.”

• Iredell County has voted unanimously to oppose the project with the Iredell County Chairman describing all this as “cockamamie,” “insane,” and a “fairy tale.”

• Even Democrat-controlled Mecklenburg County is about to vote to cease further consideration until all issues raised in the Norfolk Southern letter are resolved

• The NC Legislature lacks significant interest in the project. Thankfully, we now have a conservative, fiscally-responsible majority which recognizes the likelihood that the Red Line Rail will go way over budget, predicted tax increment financing revenues will not show up on time, and the state will be on the hook for a massive bailout of the bondholders.

All of this is not really surprising given how dumb the idea was from the beginning. Tragically, though, we have missed a great opportunity to focus all this time and energy on expanding critical roads – confirming a near-term letting date for I-77 expansion – and planning a modern rapid bus transit system like the one now underway in Connecticut that is technology-driven, supremely flexible, extremely high quality experience for commuters.

– Dave Gilroy, Cornelius

Commissioner