I’m sure many of you are excited about the Silver Line and the possibilities it creates for our corner of Charlotte. I know I am. But there is still a lot of work to be done and many decisions to be made before we see that light rail gliding down the Monroe Road corridor.
Ultimately, Mecklenburg County voters will decide whether the Silver Line is built and how to fund it. Right now, local leaders are said to be considering putting that question on the November 2021 ballot, when a new Charlotte mayor and city council will also be chosen.
So, let’s break down what’s already happened, what the MoRA organization is doing now and how you can get involved in the process.
While a transit line in this corridor has been part of Charlotte’s transit plan for years, the process really got rolling back in 2016 when CATS completed its Southeast Corridor Transit Study and the Metropolitan Transit Commission approved a locally preferred alternative (LPA) for the 13-mile stretch of the Silver Line going from Uptown to the Union County border. (CATS created an LPA for the other half of the line, heading out to Belmont, in 2019).
The LPA can be thought of as a broad brushstroke, generally laying out a possible route for the line to take.
This year, CATS began refining the LPA, taking into account development opportunities, environmental considerations, public input and lessons learned from the Blue Line to come up with more specific options. Imagine taking that general brushstroke and turning it into more precise, Sharpie-sized lines.
CATS held a series of public meetings in September about each section of the proposed line, discussing the various options. (MoRA had a presence at all of the meetings concerning our area.) You can view recordings of the public meetings and also dive deep into the various alignment options on the LYNX Silver Line Open House portal.
The goal now is to decide on a final alignment – the fine-tip pen version of the route.
How does this affect the Monroe Road area?
As an organization, our interest lies in two sections of the proposed line: Focus Area 4 (from Charlottetowne Avenue to Idlewild Road) and Focus Area 5 (Idlewild Road to Matthews).
We’re chiefly concerned with three aspects of the route: How it will connect to Bojangles’ Coliseum and Ovens Auditorium, how it will get from Independence Boulevard to Monroe Road and how long it will run along Monroe Road.
Let’s detail those:
In Focus Area 4 above, there are two options that have the line crossing from the north side of Independence to the south side right before reaching Bojangles Coliseum coming away from town, which would add a light rail stop right in the middle of the Bojangles Coliseum parking lot. A third option has the line staying on the north side of Independence with a stop across from Bojangles Coliseum and Ovens Auditorium. In this third option, there would likely be a pedestrian crossing to access the BoPlex.
In Focus Area 5 above, there are four options for how the line gets from Independence to Monroe Road: Near Village Lake Drive, along Lumarka Drive through Woodberry Forest, along the west side of McAlpine Creek Park and near Krefield Drive.
Farther south in Focus Area 5, there are options to keep the line along Monroe Road or to follow the CSX railroad on the other side of Sardis Crossing and The Galleria.
What has MoRA been doing?
Members of our organization have been intimately involved in these discussions, not only taking part in the public meetings but also scheduling separate meetings with CATS and Charlotte City Council members.
We also had a detailed conversation with CATS about Focus Area 4 earlier this month and hope to have one about Focus Area 5 in the coming weeks. These calls give us a chance to understand how CATS is approaching the different options and the risks and benefits of each option.
In October, after the refined alignments were released, we wrote a letter to CATS strongly advocating for alignments that we think would best serve the MoRA community.
You can read the full letter here. But our main points were:
- In Focus Area 4, we strongly urge CATS to choose one of the options on the south side of Independence at Bojangles Coliseum and Ovens Auditorium. We see that as being a logical centerpiece for that part of the line.
- In Focus Area 5, we strongly recommend against both the McAlpine Creek Park and Krefield options (1B and 1C). Both would bypass a key stretch of Monroe Road and we are concerned about the negative impacts of routing the line near McAlpine Creek Park. We’re also concerned about the Lumarka Drive option and have had conversations with residents there since we sent our letter. We want more information about the exact route and how it would impact that neighborhood.
- Also in Focus Area 5, we unequivocally favor the original LPA that follows Monroe Road as it approaches Matthews. It creates opportunities for a continuous stretch of transit-oriented development that also benefits from being on a major roadway.
What’s next, and how you can get involved
The next major step is expected to come in early 2021, when CATS will present the refined LPA. At that time, we expect that they’ll have another round of public engagement, soliciting feedback from residents and other stakeholders. We will be sure to let you know the details for those meetings when they are announced.
After that, CATS will send recommendations to the MTC for approval. Then the LPA can be sent for environmental review to keep the process moving forward.
Then, voters may decide the issue in a referendum on the November 2021 ballot. The ballot question is expected to cover the Silver Line along with additional bus service and other citywide mobility improvements such as bikeways and sidewalks. The $8-$12 billion package would be paid for with a mix of local, state and federal funds. Local funding options being discussed include a mix of property and sales tax increases.
In the meantime, you can continue learning more about the proposed route on the LYNX Silver LIne Open House website, where you can still make comments using the form on the “Tell Us More” tab.
We also want to hear from you: What do you think about the proposed alignments? Send your thoughts to us at email@example.com.
~ Corey Inscoe