McCrory: Don’t give up
by Staff Writer
by Justin Vick
DAVIDSON – Former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory encouraged Lake Norman leaders recently not to give up on securing federal funding for a commuter rail from Charlotte to Mooresville.
The thinking among Lake Norman Transportation Commission members has been that the Red Line project won’t receive any federal funding, Executive Director Carroll Gray said.
The commission has launched a subcommittee to evaluate future costs for the towns. It’s banking on the Charlotte Area Transit System and state to each pay 25 percent of the capital costs, while the five municipalities served by the Red Line would split the remaining 50 percent.
“I think that’s pragmatic,” said McCrory, who helped secure $200 million in federal funding to start a light rail system in Charlotte. “I wouldn’t quit trying.”
McCrory prefaced his Aug. 10 remarks to the Lake Norman Transportation Commission by saying he was an outsider looking in. In the past year and a half, however, he’s visited and talked with leaders from as many as 15 cities about transportation and infrastructure issues.
Many of those cities serve as competitors to the Lake Norman region when it comes to attracting federal transportation dollars, he said.
McCrory views the current state of federal funding for transportation as “extremely tough” over the next several years. Aside from the recession, he said the U.S. has lacked a national transportation vision since President Dwight Eisenhower supported the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s.
Recently, the federal government has put a lot of focus on distributing dollars in small pieces to a lot of cities, primarily for streetcar projects. McCrory thinks a lot of cities that get approved for these projects might turn them down, once they realize their budgets may not have enough flexibility to provide a local match. He also encouraged the commission to lobby federal representatives to recoup this money and broaden the criteria for fundable projects.
McCrory also encouraged local leaders to keep repeating their vision and continue to educate the public about transportation, roads and how they integrate with each other.
“If you don’t show them, they won’t believe it,” McCrory said.
McCrory, a Charlotte resident who ran for governor in 2008, told Lake Norman leaders his remarks were not political. He shrugged off a nudge from Gray concerning a potential 2012 campaign for governor.
“I heard a rumor you may be running for another office next year,” Gray said. “Should you be successful in that regard, we would certainly hope that transportation be part of that agenda.”
“I’m not answering that question,” McCrory replied. “Infrastructure and transportation is always going to be a passion. … If we don’t plan for the future, we haven’t built quality for the future.”