Letter to state: Railroad has major concerns on proposed Red Line

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The proposed Red Line commuter rail corridor may have hit another snag on Friday.

The N.C. Department of Transportation provided a copy of a letter from Norfolk Southern Corp. dated Monday that reveals the railroad has major concerns with the project.

The proposed commuter rail line, priced at $452 million, would run along Norfolk Southern's 'O' line from Center City to Mooresville.

The NCDOT and CATS have released a plan saying they will pay for half the cost of the project and a special tax on new economic development spurred from the new line would cover the other half.

The 25-mile line would start serving passengers by 2017 with an estimated 5,000 daily users, according to the Red Line Task Force.

But in a letter made public Friday, Norfolk Southern says the proposal may be 'fundamentally incompatible' with their potential future use of the line.

In the letter, John V. Edwards, general director of strategic planning for Norfolk Southern, says that "current publicity and discussions indicate that Norfolk Southern has agreed to, endorsed, or otherwise has consented to the proposed Red Line project, which is simply not the case."

The letter is addressed to NCDOT Deputy Secretary for Transit Paul Morris.

Norfolk Southern also says that the time frame for the project isn't feasible.

But the Virginia-based railroad's biggest concerns are the negative affects on customers it serves located along the line.

"The proposed Red Line project may now be fundamentally incompatible with Norfolk Southern's potential future use of the line and out ability to grow our business in North Carolina," the letter states.

NCDOT spokesman Ted Vaden said the state will continue to maintain a close working relationship with the railroad.

"We've got our work cut out for us," Vaden said. "We will work with them to address their concerns and questions."

The state and Norfolk Southern have had close ties since the early 1990s when the state partnered with Amtrak to launch its Carolinian passenger service which runs from Charlotte to Raleigh and north to New York City along the freight railroad's mainline.

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