Mayors talk tunnels while Charlotte pushes Red Line

Published: Jul. 2, 2021 at 6:34 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A plan to bring a commuter and passenger rail to Davidson, Cornelius and Huntersville is being met with skepticism by leaders in northern parts of Mecklenburg County.

On Monday, Charlotte leaders doubled down on the plan to make the Red Line a reality.

However, mayors in other towns are already considering other options, including tunnels for autonomous cars.

In interviews with WBTV, Cornelius Mayor Woody Washam and Davidson Mayor Rusty Knox said there’s been a conversation with The Boring Company about the possibility of building an underground tunnel for public transit between Charlotte and northern parts of the county.

The company founded by Elon Musk just finished building an underground tunnel to service the Las Vegas convention center.

“This could be something that Charlotte could utilize as well and I think it’s something we need to take a hard look at,” Knox told WBTV.

WBTV could not immediately receive a comment from CATS CEO John Lewis about whether the city is considering partnering with The Boring Company.

While some county leaders are looking at other options, the City of Charlotte still appears laser-focused on the Red Line.

Norfolk Southern owns the O-Line, which is the corridor that would be used for the Red Line.

The city and other stakeholders would need to get permission from Norfolk Southern to build the Red Line and so far that hasn’t happened.

“I’m hopeful that we will be able to provide the analysis and the data and the will the political will to continue this dialogue with North Norfolk Southern,” Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles said during a news conference Thursday.

However, records obtained by WBTV show that city leaders drafted a letter to Norfolk Southern earlier this year to start a dialogue again.

WBTV asked for records of the company responding and this week the city told WBTV no record exists.

Huntersville Mayor John Aneralla said that a Norfolk Southern representative told him the company’s stance hasn’t changed.

“They have no plans to allow any passenger rail adjacent to or on what they call their O-Line,” Huntersville Mayor John Aneralla said.

That’s in stark contrast with the city’s plan to have the Red Line completed by 2031, according to a presentation given to city council on Monday.

“It’s not tangible,” Davidson Mayor Rusty Knox said.

Knox is one of several Mecklenburg County mayors skeptical about the plan and not in support of the one-cent sales tax to pay for Charlotte’s Transformational Mobility Network.

“I am opposed to it as is my entire town board,” Cornelius Mayor Woody Washam said.

Both Mayors would like to see rail or light rail come to north Mecklenburg, they just doubt it’s a reality.

“Hearing a sooner than later date meant a lot to us, however, the high level of concern is we have Norfolk Southern in the mix once more,” Washam said.

Knox pointed out that residents in the northern part of the county ride bus frequently and they’re excited about the expansion of rapid bus transit.

However, Knox says a one-cent sales tax isn’t worth only receiving better bus transit in return.

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