A study released by Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) shows cost estimates for a proposed passenger line between Mooresville and Charlotte, N.C., rose significantly due to new infrastructure needs rather than using existing infrastructure.
The original basis of design for the North Corridor Commuter Rail (LYNX Red Line) project assumed freight and commuter service could jointly utilize existing Norfolk Southern O-Line tracks. However, two years ago, NS informed CATS that the O-Line is a strategic reserve to its organization, as it serves as a viable alternate route to the North Carolina Railroad corridor between Charlotte and Greensboro and until a permanent mainline solution could be found, a shared use corridor would not be an option.
According to the study, “this stance represents a fundamental shift in project approach from the original LYNX Red Line project concept. Potential solutions addressing this fundamental change in project approach include a possible parallel system adjacent to, but separate from, the O‐Line system.”
The known elements of building a new line have increased the project cost by $215 million, but those estimates do not include grade crossing modifications, utility adjustments and other system enhancements.
In addition to the construction cost, the study points to other project challenges including:
- Implementing the LYNX Red Line infrastructure on one side of the NS tracks while maintaining “transparency” with the existing and future O‐Line,
- The need for a new LYNX Red Line environmental document to meet the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, resulting from a fundamental shift in the project approach,
- Realignment and reconstruction of adjacent roadways and driveways,
- Substantial increases to design and construction costs, right‐of‐way impacts and project schedule,
- Multiple disruptions to adjacent communities resulting from the new commuter rail alignment and
- Increased system maintenance costs.
The study concluded with, “A more financially acceptable solution for both parties may be needed to jointly plan the three tracks, station areas, existing or anticipated industrial service sidings, and other elements within the existing NS easement. Due to the introduction of additional tracks on the corridor, project costs will increase with the potential rise in impacts to the surrounding communities and inherently require additional physical infrastructure. By modifying the existing O‐Line track when necessary, and in order to utilize the existing O‐Line easement to the extent possible, it appears possible to significantly reduce ROW, roadway, utility, and other property impacts while targeting ROW purchases to maximize benefits for identified necessary combined needs. To accomplish these goals, while keeping the strategic reserve nature of the O‐Line intact, additional coordination between NS and CATS is required to clarify the full requirements of the new policies, and to discuss future opportunities to improve the use of the corridor for the benefit of both parties.”