All aboard: City of Charlotte reaches historic agreement for Red Line, records show

CHARLOTTE — The City of Charlotte has reached an agreement in principle with Norfolk Southern to acquire the rights to the O-Line, Channel 9 has confirmed. An inability to use the O-Line track has long stalled the Red Line commuter rail project.

Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

City Manager Marcus Jones notified Mecklenburg County and Mecklenburg County town managers of the non-binding agreement in an email sent on May 15. That email was sent by Councilman Ed Driggs to Charlotte City Council on May 19.


Jones said a deal could close in early fall.

“The agreement in non-binding as we continue our due diligence, but our negotiations are progressing,” Jones wrote. “The city could acquire the rights to the O-Line by the end of September 2024 should the towns and county choose to move forward with pursuing sales tax legislation.”

Dubbed the Red Line, the commuter rail would run from Charlotte to Mount Mourne in Iredell County. It would connect Uptown to Huntersville, Mooresville, Davidson, and Cornelius. It would use the O-Line, an abandoned railroad track owned by Norfolk Southern that runs through Camp North End.

The City of Charlotte is hoping for a town and county buy-in on a penny sales tax increase referendum. The General Assembly would have to give permission for the measure to be on the ballot. Funds from the sales tax increase would benefit transit, with a bulk of the proceeds going toward road projects.

The Red Line would be funded through the sales tax increase. Jones indicated to his peer managers that talks with the General Assembly are proceeding nicely.

“The business community has continued its dialogue with state legislative leaders, and they have indicated they could support enabling sales tax legislation in the current short session,” he said. “Should a subsequent referendum pass, it would generate billions of dollars to build out our bus and rail system, as well as improve our road infrastructure. This is all possible if we can come together as a region now.”

At the city council meeting Tuesday night, Jones said the referendum would be in 2025.

The City of Charlotte declined to comment on the report. Representatives for House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate Leader Phil Berger did not respond to requests for comment.

The project was first proposed in 1998. It stalled in 2013 when Norfolk Southern changed its policy for passenger rail on its tracks. In July 2023, Norfolk Southern expressed a willingness to work with the City of Charlotte on the O-Line.

For more information about the O-Line project, click here.

(WATCH PREVIOUS: Public invited to learn more about proposed rail from Meck to Iredell counties)

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