CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) - Friday was a big day in the Queen City.
“We've moved at another level in this country to be a city that has mass transit as an option,” said Mayor Vi Lyles.
She’s talking about the 9.3-mile Blue Line light rail extension which runs from UNC-Charlotte and North Charlotte to Uptown that’s taken almost five years to complete.
“There's been a lot of frustrations associated with business disruptions, road closures constituents frustrated over traffic,” said Charlotte City Council member Greg Phipps.
But finally, FOX 46 got to take the first ride with beauty shots along the way and enthusiasm that the $1.1 billion price tag will be money well spent.
FOX 46 visited the new platform opened on UNC-Charlotte’s campus Friday. It’s called "UNC-Charlotte-Main.”
A one-way ticket costs $2.20 and riders say it was a cool experience to be one of the first people to board the new section of the train.
“What does having the light rail extension mean to you?” FOX 46’s Robin Kanady asked Christina Stephens, one of the first riders.
“For me it's a whole lot of difference to get where I’m coming from and where I need to be on time,” Stephens said.
“I walked from my house and I walked right to 36th St. train station,” said Charlotte City Council member Braxton Winston, who rode along.
“Instead of going downtown and having to pay for parking and go to job interviews, people can take the light rail,” one UNC-Charlotte student said.
Just to give you an idea of how long this project has been in the works, the very first part of the light rail-- which connects Uptown Charlotte and South Charlotte-- opened in 2007.
The train doesn't quite run 24/7, but it's open every day of the week. and shut down only for a few hours in the very early morning.
There are also plans to expand the Lightrail in three new directions: To the airport, to Cornelius and Huntersville and to Matthews and the Independence Rd. area.
But CATS CEO John Lewis says the amount of federal funding is unclear.
“We made a promise to this community when they voted for this half cent sales tax that we would deliver five corridors by 2030,” he said.