The proposed Southeast Corridor Rapid Transit Project is one of Charlotte's five rapid transit corridors. The Southeast Corridor extends approximately 13.5 miles from Charlotte's Center City to the border of Mecklenburg and Union Counties, terminating at Central Piedmont Community College’s Levine Campus.
During the DEIS, two modes of transportation were evaluated for the Southeast Corridor, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT). In September 2006, the Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC) reviewed study results from the DEIS and adopted the following motion that:
- BRT be selected as the Locally Preferred Alternative in the SE Corridor; and
- Implementation of BRT be delayed for at least five years to allow for the future reconsideration of Light Rail (LRT) in the SE Corridor; and
- That CATS' staff is directed to take the necessary steps in design and engineering with NCDOT on the Highway Project (Independence Boulevard) so that light rail could be considered in the future.
Some of the key factors that influenced the decision were:
- Greater service area and frequency and hence higher projected ridership
- Best cost-effectiveness / lowest capital cost
The 13.5-mile BRT alternative would operate from the Charlotte Gateway Station to the CPCC Levine Campus. Sixteen stations have been identified, including eight with park-and-ride facilities, with a total of 3,350 spaces. The BRT would operate at 3-minute headways in the peak period, and 10-minute headways in the off-peak times and weekends in order to provide the capacity required to meet projected demand. Thirty-three BRT vehicles would be required to operate this service.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is planning to complete the conversion of Independence Boulevard to an expressway from the end of the current expressway at Albemarle Road to I-485. The next phase of the NCDOT highway project is to extend the expressway from Albemarle Road to Conference Drive by 2014. CATS and NCDOT are currently finalizing the environmental planning for this portion of Independence Boulevard. This planning will allow the widening of Independence from Albemarle Road to Conference Drive to begin in 2010. As part of this project, accommodations will be made to allow for future implementation of either BRT or LRT. The existing busway that currently ends just prior to Sharon Amity Road will be extended as part of the highway widening project.
On November 15, 2006, the MTC set the course for rapid transit for the next 24 years in Mecklenburg County by approving the 2030 Corridor System Plan and prioritizing the four remaining transit corridors and the streetcar with a schedule for advancement into design and construction. The phased schedule for implementation of the transit projects was driven by several factors, including the capacity of the transit sales tax to build and operate the improvements. Increased construction costs and stricter requirements for securing federal funding also contributed to extending the timeframe for transit improvements in all corridors. The schedule proposed for the Southeast Corridor project is as follows:
- Phase I 2016 begin design / 2022 complete construction
- Phase II 2018 begin design / 2024 complete construction
- Phase III 2020 begin design / 2026 complete construction