Red Line could connect Lake Norman to Uptown Charlotte

- Mayors from across Mecklenburg County voted to continue the study for the red line corridor, a light rail that would transport riders from Uptown charlotte to Lake Norman.

The decision impacts how hundreds of thousands of people from Lake Norman to Charlotte get around Wednesday night.  

CATS CEO John Lewis says residents say they want options to the congested highways particularly I-77.

"One thing we're hearing very clearly from the residents is they want all day, frequent service," Lewis said.

The commission says the continued study is needed to identify where the Red Line tracks could be built.

The initial plan was to use existing rail lines however, Norfolk Southern owns them and won't lease their rail lines because they don't want commuter trains on their freight tracks.

Huntersville mayor John Anaralla, who cast the only opposing vote, says the plans are 20 years in the making but Norfolk Southern won't allow use of their lines because they don't want commuter trains on their freight tracks. 

He says millions of dollars have already been spent on development in anticipation of the light rail.

"It's not something I could ever support. I will continue to fight this and if I'm the only vote against it they will never look back and say 'Mayor Anaralla what did you do?',” he said.

The Metropolitan Transit Commission says the Red Line would cost $500 million, but that's only if Norfolk Southern allows CATS to use their existing rail lines. 

City leaders expressed the pros and cons of a new corridor but County Commissioner Ella Scarborough says enough is enough.

"I want to see us do mass transit because we need it not because it's cutesy, it is needed in this county and we're so far behind. You know why we're so far behind? Because we're scared to make a decision,” Scarborough said.

Leaders say the study is needed to secure federal funding for the project which is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Mayor Anaralla believes it'll never happen.

"I really think that this is more probably about getting the vote for another half-cent sales tax and giving people the thought or the optimism that this line could come and I really don't believe that's going to happen,” he said.

Anaralla says the focus needs to be on negotiating with Norfolk Southern for use of their lines and not on a study to build a new corridor that he says residents in Northern Mecklenburg County don't support. 

FOX 46 was live at Wednesday's meeting. Here are a few of the points that were presented for discussion:

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