Thursday, October 11, 2012

Smells like train spirit

What just rolled into my email inbox is an invitation from the Charlotte Area Transit System to a "major transportation funding announcement" Tuesday morning. "Please join FTA [Federal Transit Administration] Administrator Peter Rogoff, Congressman Mel Watt, Mayor Anthony Foxx and CATS CEO Carolyn Flowers ... " it says.

The time: 10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16
The place - and this is a big clue - "9th Street Trolley Station."

That's a station built for and used by Charlotte Trolley when the nonprofit was running its trolley service through uptown. But the trolley service is defunct (at least for now), and the station is empty. That would, however, be the first station of the new Blue Line Extension.

I've made a few calls, but so far to little effect, to try to get confirmation or denial of whether this is what it smells like. Olaf Kinard, CATS' marketing and communications director, would neither confirm nor deny anything. Mayor Anthony Foxx's press secretary, Al Killeffer, would say only, "Just come to the event."

Although most everyone in town has taken it for granted that the Blue Line Extension a.k.a. the Northeast Corridor, or, the light rail to UNC Charlotte would of course get built, a Full Funding Grant Agreement is essentially the signed agreement between the federal government and the local transit agency. While there are never any guarantees when it comes to federal funding, it's a lot harder for the state or the feds to decide not to pony up the money if the FFGA has been signed. (The FFGA with the state was already signed.) With the current anti-rail-transit sentiment among many in the congressional and state legislative leadership, getting this agreement signed and nailed down is major.

If, of course, that's what this is.

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