CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (WBTV) – A WBTV survey last Tuesday showed emails from city leaders admitting that the cost of Charlotte’s transformational mobility network was likely $ 8 billion more than originally presented.
At a city council meeting on Monday evening, city leaders presented up-to-date cost estimates that confirmed a high price tag but still withheld important financial information from the public.
In a PowerPoint presentation from city leaders and a consultant called InfraStrategies LLC, the estimated capital cost of TMN is $ 13.5 billion.
But in an email obtained by WBTV, Special Assistant to City Manager Shawn Heath wrote that the actual cost could be $ 20 billion.
“The range of $ 8 billion to $ 12 billion in the task force report is just for capital costs taking into account operating costs and financing costs, I think the 30-year all-in is more like around $ 20 billion, “Heath wrote in an email to planning director Taiwo Jaiyeoba and CFO Kelly Flannery.
The new price tag presented on Monday evening does not include financing costs and operating and maintenance costs.
During the presentation, City Manager Marcus Jones referred to the WBTV investigation and said the city never included debt and financing costs in these estimates.
“I want to talk a little bit about the funding costs, which is important I think it came out last week in the article,” Jones said. “I will tell you that there is no project that we have ever done that includes financing costs.
“For example, a few years ago we built a police station that cost us $ 26 million. This is the cost of construction. By the time you pay it over 20 years it hits $ 35 million, but we don’t qualify a police station as $ 35 million because that’s the cost of funding, “Jones said.
But members of the Republican city council said the city’s transparency was lacking and could prove costly.
In order to fund the project, the city would need the North Carolina General Assembly to authorize the city to hold a referendum for a sales tax of one cent on the ballot before putting the majority of residents in the ballot to vote. County of Mecklenburg in his favor. .
“This plan as it was devised by the people who delivered it died in the water,” District 6 city councilor Tariq Bokhari said. “The general assembly and the municipalities will not have the necessary confidence as long as we continue to treat our partners as pawns.”
“I have to say I’m glad we’re finally having this conversation after spending a year wondering why we weren’t paying more attention to finances and recruiting our partners,” said District 7 City Councilor Ed. Driggs.
The InfraStrategies presentation included other important updates on the project timeline and the amount of revenue that sales tax would be expected to generate.
City manager Marcus Jones admitted that it would be next to impossible to start all of the transit projects listed in the plan at the same time.
The new update calls for a phased approach, with projects being completed on staggered dates.
- CityLYNX Gold Line Phase 3: 2033 – Estimated cost $ 651.7 million
- LYNX Red Line: 2031 – Estimated cost $ 674 million
- LYNX Blue Line Extension: 2041 – Estimated cost of $ 1.4 billion
- LYNX Blue Line Core Capacity: 2041 – Estimated cost $ 122.4 million
- LYNX Silver Line Phase A: 2037 – Estimated cost of $ 5.1 billion
- LYNX Silver Line Phase B: 2040 – Estimated cost of $ 2.9 billion
- 1-77 Bus Rapid Transit: 2029 – Estimated cost $ 228.6 million
- Priority bus corridors: 2028 – Estimated cost of $ 229.9 million
- Envision My Ride: 2026 – Estimated cost of $ 92.6 million
The $ 13.5 billion price tag also includes $ 1.9 billion in non-transportation capital costs that cover greenways, sidewalks and roads. However, it does not include costs outside of Mecklenburg County.
InfraStrategies also predicted that revenue from a one-cent sales tax would generate $ 37 billion between 2023 and 2071, when the last debt of the projects would be paid off. It is not clear why information regarding remote revenue projections was shared when specific operating and financing costs would not be.
Even without this information, Jones claimed sales tax revenue would cover the entire project.
“This covers capital costs, operating costs and financing costs,” Jones said.
Jones’ projection also assumes that the city will receive substantial matching funds from the federal government to help fund the projects.
Information presented by Infrastrategies shows that federal grant programs for projects over $ 300 million represent between 35 and 50% of total costs, while projects under $ 300 million represent between 50 and 60%. However, expensive projects like those pursued by the city usually receive grants at the lower end of that scale.
Congress is currently considering an infrastructure bill that would fund local transit projects, but InfraStrategies admits that the dollar amounts paid to Charlotte are unknown and “will be determined based on negotiations with the Federal Transit Administration as the projects are moving forward ”.
The scope of the project is huge, with Charlotte Regional Business Alliance CEO Janet LaBar saying it would be the largest economic development effort in North Carolina history.
CRBA is conducting an economic impact study on RTM which will be published later this summer. Jones said he will present options to the board regarding next steps for MNT in the fall.
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