In terms of passenger rail projects in this country, there is no shortage of ambition, but there usually is a shortage of funding. The Charlotte Observer has reported that North Carolina is very familiar with the frustrations associated with lack of federal funding. The city has had plans in place for a commuter line to Lake Norman using Norfolk-Southern freight tracks, but a lack of funding for the line has put the project on hold. The project is estimated to cost $213 million with the total cost reaching $300 million when operating costs are included.
The Charlotte City Council, with the help of the N.C. Department of Transportation and a private consultant, has been discussing a variety of ways to overcome funding woes. Initially, the council favored a “Transit-Oriented Development” program, which was categorized by using tax revenue from residential and commercial development to help the project. The new plan, known as “Value Capture” or “Freight-Oriented Development,” is based on the idea that improvements to Norfolk-Southern’s freight line will lead to increased use of the line by the freight rail giant. The council hopes that with increased use, there will also be an increase in development of warehouses and distribution centers, which would create a great deal of tax revenue as well. Officials are very excited about Freight-Oriented Development and feel that it will allow the Charlotte-Lake Norman commuter line to “capture the benefit of the economic development that the rail line would spawn.”
It is uncertain what the future holds for the proposed Charlotte-Lake Norman passenger rail line, but Charlotte should be given credit for taking alternate paths to find rail funding. Money for rail projects from the government is dwindling, so cities across the country will have to build passenger rails on their own, whether it be with tax revenues or by other means. Freight-Oriented Development may not work in all areas of the country, but it seems like an ideal strategy for N.C., where there is potential for tax revenues from freight shipping growth.Posted in Passenger Rail