Feb 26, 2024 - Transit

"We do not want to be Atlanta:" NC top lawmakers say Charlotte needs to focus on roads

Berger and Moore talking to reporters

Berger and Moore talk to reporters at Charlotte Regional Business Alliance. Photo: Alexandria Sands/Axios

North Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore steered the conversation to roads when asked about local transportation issues at the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance on Monday.

  • "We do not want to be Atlanta with the traffic mess," Moore told Axios after the event. "We have to stay on top of it. You know, Atlanta put a lot of money into ... the rapid transit that they have. It still has super low ridership."

Why it matters: City leaders need the backing of state lawmakers if they are to advance their ambitious transit goals.

  • For years, Charlotte officials have advocated for a potential countywide 1-cent sales tax increase to pay for mobility projects, including a second light rail.
  • But they would need the General Assembly and county commissioners to support their plans to put such a referendum on the ballot.

Flashback: During his last appearance at the business alliance, Moore told reporters Charlotte's $13.5-billion transportation plan was too focused on bike lanes, buses and other non-car modes of transit.

  • His message infuriated transit advocates and prompted city leaders to rethink their strategy.
  • So far this year, Charlotte City Council has discussed a "roads-first" mobility plan.

At this year's event, Moore reiterated that road projects should be the city's top priority should they bring forth a transportation proposal.

  • He stressed how fixing congestion is vital to leveraging investments in the airport and luring companies to the state.

Berger agreed roads should be the bulk of the city's proposal. He said the state needs to find more dollars to fund transportation; but most options, such as increasing the gas tax, aren't palatable.

  • As for a higher sales tax for Mecklenburg County, he said members of the legislature would want to know where the money is going.
  • "Some of the things that we often hear from transportation advocates in urban areas are probably difficult for folks to vote for," he said.


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