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Charlotte tells federal regulators it intends to acquire O-Line

CHARLOTTE — After decades of stalls and derailed dreams, Charlotte’s ambitious and long-planned Red Line project appears to be full steam ahead.

On Monday, the city of Charlotte notified the Surface Transportation Board that it intends to acquire the O-Line from Norfolk Southern. A city of Charlotte spokesperson confirmed the filing and said this is part of the process.

“Today’s filing with the Surface Transportation Board is a procedural step in the city’s on-going process to acquire the O-line from Norfolk Southern,” a spokesperson for Charlotte said. “The agreements are non-binding, and any details included in the filling are part of on-going discussions as the city continues its due diligence and are subject to change. This is another step in the process, and the city remains committed to the Red Line as part of the region’s larger transit and transportation vision.”

The filing says Charlotte wants to acquire 29.04 miles of railroad right-of-way in Mecklenburg and Iredell Counties, stretching from milepost O-0.04 in Charlotte to O-29.08 in Mooresville. The notice to the Surface Transportation Board says Norfolk Southern will still be able to operate freight on the line.

“Charlotte will acquire the assets from NSR subject to NSR’s retention of a permanent and exclusive easement as necessary for NSR to continue to fulfill its common carrier and related freight services,” the filing states. “NSR will retain the easement to provide rail service to customers over, on, and connecting to the assets, pursuant to a contract of purchase and sale and comprehensive rail agreement between Charlotte and NSR.”

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The filing says the purchase and comprehensive agreements will ban Charlotte from providing freight service to customers along the line and interfere with Norfolk Southern’s freight service rights.

In May, Channel 9 broke the news that the city of Charlotte had reached an agreement in principle with Norfolk Southern to acquire the rights to the O-Line. The deal could close by the end of September.

The city of Charlotte is hoping the North Carolina General Assembly will authorize a sales tax increase referendum. If the proposed penny sales tax increase is approved by voters, funds from the hike would benefit transit, with a bulk of the proceeds going toward road projects.

The Red Line, which would run on the O-Line, is the most highly prioritized rail project. It would bring commuter rail from Uptown to Mooresville.

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.

The Surface Transportation Board is a federal agency that regulates primarily freight rail operations.


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