By Caitlin Coakley
Since last week’s announcement that Charlotte has been awarded a $25 million federal grant to build the first segment of a streetcar line, the question has been: Now what?
The starter line, a 1.5-mile stretch running from the Time Warner Cable Arena to Presbyterian Hospital, represents the first step in building the proposed 10-mile streetcar line that would stretch from Eastland Mall through uptown and up Beatties Ford Road. What will happen beyond the engineering and construction of that starter line — including the funding for the line’s operation — is unknown.
While supporters tout the economic development benefits that the completed line will bring to the corridors, those benefits are still a long way off. In the meantime, the city will be paying roughly $1.5 million a year to operate the starter line.
It’s plausible, say critics, that this first step will be a drain on resources until the rest of the project can be completed and the full benefit realized.
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