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Posted: 4:08 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012
By Scott Wickersham
CHARLOTTE, N.C. —
Channel 9 will be there Wednesday when the city breaks ground on the next stage of the Streetcar Project. The U.S. transportation secretary will be in town to officially break ground on the 1.5-mile track from Presbyterian Hospital to the Transit Center uptown. But the plan to extend it into east and west Charlotte is in greater jeopardy. After months of insisting on it, Monday Mayor Anthony Foxx proposed a spending plan that does not include money for the next phase of the Streetcar Project. If the money is not approved now to extend the streetcar it may be years before that happens, and maybe more years before it is actually built. In the meantime business owners ask how a tiny stretch of tracks will benefit anyone. Workers at Societe nightclub on Elizabeth Avenue have been looking forward to the streetcar since they opened in August. But now a chance their small stretch may be the only one for years. Londyn Powell said, "If it's just running back and forth between downtown it won't bring people from other parts of Charlotte." And that could very well happen now that the mayor has conceded to a spending plan possibility that doesn't include money to extend it 2 miles in each direction. Its been a major sticking point, and dropping the Streetcar Project may be what gets majority vote. The projected path runs right past Ken Demert's clock shop on Central Avenue."I had my heart set on that" said Demert "It identifies Charlotte as a more progressive city." But even bus rider Carl Frank, who doesn't have a car, can understand the hesitation. "The streetcar sounds good but I know a lot of people don't want taxes raised right now," he said. Economist Dr. John Connaughton says it's a sign of the times, that city leaders and taxpayers are counting every dollar spent. A decade ago he says it wouldn't even be an issue. "This would fly under the radar." he says, " No one would be interested in it. We would just do it."
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