Officials say light rail expansion project will bring jobs to Charlotte

by: Sarah Rosario Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

More jobs, cleaner air and safer roads are just some the benefits city officials say the light rail expansion project will bring to the Queen City. 

The city plans to expand the transportation system, backed by $580 million from the federal government.  The new plan extends the Blue Line Extension 9.2 miles, from uptown to UNC Charlotte's campus.

Mayor Anthony Foxx spoke exclusively to Eyewitness News a day ahead of the big announcement.  On Tuesday, city leaders went public with their new venture. 

Foxx said he expects this to be the biggest public works project in the city's history. He said Charlotte is the only city in the country this year to be awarded $580 million in federal funds to expand its transit system. The new route will branch from uptown, through NoDa and University City, and end on UNC Charlotte's campus.

Business owners Eyewitness News spoke to see the new plans as an opportunity.

"It opens up a whole new market of people who can come uptown easily, but the other part of it is probably a third of our employees are students at UNCC," said Bryan Meredith, Queen City BBQ co-owner.

Meredith said Queen City BBQ is on the last stop of the Blue Line Extension. At first, Meredith said he didn't know what to expect, but said after almost a year of being at the location he's noticed an increase in business. 

"We do have people who get on the light rail on the south part of town and come up here to see us," said Meredith.

On Tuesday, Foxx called it a turning point for the Queen City.

"We still have a need for transit, and today, we take a bold step forward," Foxx said.

The project is estimated to create 7,000 new jobs, $250 million in payroll and double ridership.

Foxx said when the Lynx Blue Line was built in south Charlotte, it created $1.4 billion for the private sector.  Estimates for the project are expected to nearly double the revenue in years to come for the Queen City.

"The longer term benefits are the investments that will take place along this light rail line, the options it's going to open up for people.  There's been about $3 billion of investment along the south corridor. That is largely related to the light rail that's there," said Charlotte Chamber of Commerce President Bob Morgan.

Construction is slated to begin in November 2013. Work is expected to be completed by 2017.