By Yustin Riopko
The Silver Line Task Force met with the board of commissioners Nov. 9 to recommend an alignment for the upcoming light rail project.
Appointed by Mayor John Higdon, the task force consists of 14 stakeholders, including citizens, and planning board and committee members, who met 10 times between June and November to decide how the CATS LYNX Silver Line will navigate Matthews.
The task force received options from CATS for potential alignments, facilitated surveys and received a tour of the existing LYNX Blue Line that connects UNC Charlotte through uptown down to South Boulevard near I-485.
CATS hasn’t committed to any deadline for the 26-mile Silver Line, but senior project manager Andy Mock has said they’d like the project to align with Charlotte’s 2030 transit plan. With a soft goal to start engineering by 2021, CATS will soon need to know Matthews’ preferred alignment for its 4-mile segment.
Task force chair Bill Stevens told commissioners they considered economic factors like transit-oriented development, traffic and street crossing, construction and noise impacts, as well as grade details, such as whether areas of the train were elevated or below ground.
The Silver Line will encompass 27 stops, including four in Matthews, with at least one of those being a park-and-ride destination.
The task force made three main recommendations to commissioners, voting unanimously on two and voting 8-4 for the third. One thing members all agreed on was that the Silver Line should enter Matthews along Monroe Road, rather than along CSX, the freight railroad paralleling Monroe.
“When we rode along the Blue Line, the stations that had the most interesting character and appeal were by far the ones that went through populated areas,” Stevens said.
On the other side of downtown, the task force unanimously made the recommendation for the Silver Line to ride through the Sportsplex and under I-485 to terminate at the CPCC Levine Campus.
The biggest decision for the task force was how the rail should traverse downtown Matthews. Should it go straight down Matthews Street with a stop in the middle of town, or just miss that area with a stop at the edge of the Novant Health campus?
Eight task force members thought a downtown stop would be best for business and accessibility, whereas four other members voted against that recommendation. One major concern was how a light rail station too close to the middle of things could change the character of downtown beyond what is currently a treasured asset.
No final decisions have been made yet regarding the LYNX Silver Line’s alignment through Matthews.