Correction: This story includes a correction. The original reported the wrong number of freight trains on Norfolk-Southern's line between Charlotte and Mooresville.
The planned Red Line commuter rail between Charlotte and Mooresville is getting dealt a major setback. Charlotte had arrangements to share existing tracks with the Norfolk Southern Railway Company, but that’s no longer the case.
Charlotte doesn’t have the money to build a new set of train tracks all the way to Mooresville. So it struck a tentative deal with Norfolk Southern, a rail company that already has a track laid, to share it.
But the company pulled out, saying the city will have to build its own track. Norfolk Southern runs one freight train a day on the private track. But it runs about 30 freight trains a day on the NC Railroad, which it leases from the state. The company worries at some point it may have to transfer that traffic to the one it owns. A 2009 CATS study estimated the Red Line commuter rail could have added up to 38 more trains a day to Norfolk Southern's line. That could add up to a lot of traffic on just one track.
Norfolk Southern says it’s way too much traffic.
“We recognize that it’s Norfolk Southern’s corridor, and they’re a business, and they have to look out for their business,” says CATS Chief Development Officer John Muth.
But the city was relying so heavily on the company to share the track, it already spent about $24 million on land along the rails. Muth says construction on a separate track could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, money the city doesn’t have.
If it can’t reach a compromise, CATS will have to look to the state or federal government for funds to build the track.