The light rail extension will be funded using 50 percent federal grant money, 25 percent state money and 25 percent city money.
But the city is also considering building a streetcar that would link eastern Charlotte to the city’s west side.
Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, said legislators were caught off guard by the streetcar proposal.
“We were getting mixed signals from the mayor about what priorities were,” he said.
Torbett said the state has to maximize benefits for all N.C. residents — using limited funds.
“The state is wondering, ‘If the city does indeed raise the money for the streetcar extension, then why are you asking us for $180 million for the Blue Line extension?’” said Charlotte city council member Andy Dulin.
The light rail project would cost the city $926 million, about $37.5 million per mile.
Some city council members have proposed raising property taxes to generate money for the streetcar — an idea particularly unpopular with McCrory and Dulin.
“As a Republican and as someone who has worked with McCrory, I am fighting it with everything I can because I do not want to raise taxes,” Dulin said.
Council member John Autry said the streetcar would provide transportation certainty to local developers.
The city needs to be proactive and demonstrate its commitment to the streetcar project to federal officials in order to garner financial support, he said.
The light rail dispute is an example of recurring tensions between Charlotte and Raleigh, said Michael Bitzer, a political science professor at Catawba College.
The current conflict is project-specific, but it has likely been exaggerated because both McCrory and Speaker of the N.C. House Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, hail from the Charlotte area, he said.
Bitzer said conflicts often arise when the state government tries to exert more control in local areas.
“North Carolina has a history of state involvement in local issues and policies,” he said. “This is reflective of the state dictating to local government what they can and cannot do.”
Autry said any tensions are due to miscommunication.
“It’s tough to govern Charlotte from Raleigh,” Autry said. “That’s why we don’t have one state government that’s from the beach to the mountains. That’s why we have municipalities.”
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