MATTHEWS – The Charlotte Area Transit System is inching along with its plans to connect Matthews to Uptown Charlotte via a light-rail system, and senior transit planner Jason Lawrence said CATS’ target date of opening the Silver Line in 2030 is a realistic goal.
But a lot of things must fall into place in the coming years, especially finding the estimated $1.7 billion needed to build the project. The Silver Line will extend from Central Piedmont Community College’s Levine Campus in town all the way through Center City Charlotte before extending into Belmont along Wilkinson Boulevard.
The Silver Line is still in the pre-project development phase with planning continuing until up to 2024, which is when land acquisition is slated to start. Construction would begin in 2027.
“It’s possible,” Lawrence responded when asked during a Facebook Live if a completion date of 2030 was realistic. “It is our goal to complete the 2030 Plan by 2030. The only way to do that is to begin the project today. We have done the work to define the conceptual alignment through communities in Charlotte and Gaston and Union counties.
“However, to beat that 2030 deadline, we need to get started on design, and that is the piece we are working through now. We do hope to work on design this year to advance that project, and then just take it one step at a time.’’
The proposed Silver Line is 26 miles long from Matthews to Belmont but Lawrence said it is possible the light-rail service could extend into Union County. The line would run from CPCC through downtown Matthews and then along Monroe Road before branching out along Independence Boulevard. It would then cross Independence near Bojangles Coliseum.
There will be some parking facilities along the route in Matthews, most likely at CPCC and near the Highway 51 area, but stops in the downtown area would be walk-up stations.
“We haven’t determined the number of spaces or what that parking would look like,” Lawrence said.
The Silver Line will access the new Charlotte Gateway Station near Bank of America Stadium. Phase 1 of that project, which includes constructing new track and bridges in the area, is currently underway.
Lawrence said more public input will be sought as the project progresses.
“The Lynx Silver Line was a very open process, and we have already received a lot of feedback,” Lawrence said. “We did evaluate a number of options. We looked at type of property impacts, building impacts with existing infrastructure. We have defined that. The Silver Line was proposed as bus rapid transit operating in the median of Independence Boulevard, however, we changed that and it will give us new economic development opportunities.’’
Finding the money to fund the project is a huge hurdle and Lawrence said a number of funding sources are being sought.
“The Silver Line will be advanced incrementally as funding becomes available,” he said. “We are seeking funding to begin design of that service and advance it toward what is called an environmental document. Once we reach that point, we will seek additional local, state and federal funding. That is how we did the Blue Line and the Blue Line extension. We will fund locally through the half-cent sales tax the design of the project. But to construct the project, we would have to seek additional funding from a number of sources.’’