• City leaders debate long-term streetcar plans

    By: Jason Stoogenke


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Charlotte city leaders are trying to decide whether to spend more than $100 million on streetcars.

    Back in June, they couldn't agree on any long-term construction plan. They ended up passing a budget without it, promising to tackle the plan later.

    That's what they did  Thursday, when they held their first meeting to try to reach an agreement. Once again, they got stuck on streetcars -- the biggest ticket item, at $119 million, and maybe the most controversial.

    They already have funding for the mile-and-a-half stretch that goes through Elizabeth. The $119 million would extend the line about two miles in each direction.

    Some are willing to raise taxes, including their own, to pay for streetcars.

    "It's what connects us," said council member John Autry. "It's what keeps us vital, and it's what keeps us growing."

    Others are against any tax hike during this economy.

    "You can't do this to people. There's so many people on the edge," said council member Claire Fallon.

    Council's Michael Barnes is in the middle.

    He likes streetcars but doesn't like the idea of everyone's taxes going up to pay for them -- maybe just the people who own property along the line, like Presbyterian Hospital and Central Piedmont Community College.

    "We should try to find and have other funding sources for that line," he said.

    Council member Pat Cannon told Eyewitness News that he has an idea in the works -- one that sounds like it may involve private money.

    Council plans to meet again and spend the bulk of the time on streetcars again.

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