Norfolk Southern Corp. has told the Red Line Task Force and NC DOT it is “not logistically possible” to meet a summer goal for completing a new study of the rail line north of Charlotte, and such a study might take years. The latest letter from the owner of the tracks between Charlotte and Mooresville raises questions about whether the proposed Red Line Regional Rail Project can meet the task force’s timetable, which already has been revised amid concerns from Norfolk Southern.
In an email Wednesday to project officials, Norfolk Southern planner John Edwards said a new “infrastructure and operations” study of the rail project would be costly and take much longer than project officials have estimated. He said the project and the railroad would have to spend months “formulating” a study. “The study itself would take an additional several months or more to be performed. Often this type of study is a multi-year effort,” he wrote.
John Woods, Davidson’s mayor and chair of the Metropolitan Transit Commission’s Red Line Task Force, on Thursday said only: “We hope to meet with NS officals soon and better understand their needs. Meanwhile, we contiinue work on the finance plan.”
See the full letter below.
ASSESSMENT DISTRICT BOUNDARIES DUE
Meanwhile, consultants and project officials are continuing to work on parts of the Red Line plan that they still have control over. That includes hammering out boundaries for the special tax districts along the line that would help generate revenues to pay for the line.
One of the financing methods calls for asking commercial property owners in Special Assessment Districts along the line to vote on whether to voluntarily assess themselves an annual fee that would go to the project. One unanswered question about that plan is which properties would be included.
At Davidson’s Town Board meeting Tuesday night, project consultant Katherine Henderson said the consultants have submitted exact boundaries for the districts to town and county planners. She said she expects that detailed maps would be published Monday, March 19, on the project website, RedLineRegionalRail.org.
Another unanswered question is how the consultants might adjust the amount of those assessments to accommodate owners of properties that house small businesses. Consultant Mark Briggs said Tuesday he’s still working on that revision. He said it could be another week or so before he’s ready to make public new figures.
NORFOLK SOUTHERN LETTER
From: Edwards, John, V (Planning)
Date: Wed, Mar 14, 2012 at 12:10 PM
Subject: RE: Red Line Task Force Minutes
Thank you for the opportunity to review and comment on the Minutes for the latest Red Line Task Force meeting. This also serves to respond to the email of March 7 from Paul Morris and Mayor Woods.
In review of those minutes, I noted a report asserting that an infrastructure and operations study would be completed in the spring and summer of 2012. Unfortunately, that is simply not logistically possible. As I noted in my email of February 22, 2012 to the Task Force, Norfolk Southern would be pleased to meet later this spring or summer should the Red Line Task Force decide to proceed with such an infrastructure and operations study. Any study conducted by Norfolk Southern to introduce commuter rail to the O Line would involve a significant effort from all sides, i.e., formulating a study outline, precepts for that study, determination as to the human and financial resources to devote to the conduct of the study, etc. After we have formulated the foundations for such a study, the study itself would take an additional several months or more to be performed. Often this type of study is a multi-year effort. It certainly is not one to begin lightly, and such a study can be fairly expensive for the communities to undertake. Once all involved know what the acceptable infrastructure, operational plan, and capital and operational costs might be, it is then that we can turn to determining whether a proposal for the commuter service along this corridor may be acceptable to Norfolk Southern and the affected communities.
I hope this provides further clarification.