The City of Charlotte in North Carolina unveiled a plan to raise $35 million in bond money for construction of 14 miles of  bike trails that would complete the northern half of a 30.6-mile cross-county bikeway parallel to the city's light-rail line.


City transportation planners say the Cross-Charlotte Trail would run from York, S.C. on the southern edge of Mecklenberg County through uptown Charlotte, the city’s NoDa art district, to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and end at the border with Cabarrus County. Bond issues would pay for construction of the 13.8 northernmost miles of the trail. The Mecklenburg Park & Recreation would spend another $20 million completing 10.9 miles on the southern half of the trail for a total investment of about $55 million. Construction of all but 1.5 miles of the trail would be completed in 2019 if voters approve the bond issues.


Once completed, the trail would enable commuters to bike and walk to train stations for their commutes to jobs along the light rail line. The southern half of the Lynx light rail line was completed years ago and contractors recently broke ground on the northern half.


The next step in the Cross-Charlotte Trail project is to seek voter approval this fall for a $146 million bond issue that includes $5 million for design work on the the new trail segments. The city would have to return to voters for the remaining $30 million in construction funds at a later date.


The proposal comes amid a backlash against the state legislature’s plans to award a Spanish company a 50-year contract to add toll lanes to I-77, to ease rush-hour congestion along the region’s primary north-south artery to the west of the proposed bike route. To recover its $655 million share in the costs of the project, the company would be able to charge tolls that state transportation officials estimate could reach as high as $11.75 one way during rush hour.


It also follows rave reviews of Minneapolis’ use of bike trails by a delegation of Charlotte leaders that visited that city in June to see how it won the No. 2 spot on the American Fitness Index.  Charlotte ranks No. 27 on the index, which is prepared by the American College of Sports Medicine in partnership with the Wellpoint Foundation.


Minneapolis was also named the most bicycling friendly city in the United States by Bicycling magazine in 2013. 


The League of American Bicyclists Bicycle ranked North Carolina 23rd in its 2014 Bicycle Friendly America report. None of the state’s communities earned a Gold award and only one – Carrboro – received a Silver award. The rest, including Charlotte, which is the state’s largest city, received a Bronze award.