Editor's note: Stallings is trying to gain support to place a referendum on Union County fall ballots for a quarter-cent sales tax to pay for transportation needs, including light rail. Mayor Pro Tem Lynda Paxton gave these remarks during the June 8 meeting of the Union County Board of Commissioners.

Poor road conditions and congestion is the number one complaint we hear from our residents.

The most recent evaluation that I've seen reports that at least 34% of our rural roads are in mediocre or poor condition. Poor roads cost drivers $1.7 billion each year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs.

Additionally, poor roads are a factor in 30% of fatal accidents. None of you were born in the 1930s, and thankfully, neither was I. In the 1930s, North Carolina was touted as the Good Roads State, but our declining tax revenues and the escalating construction costs have contributed to serious funding shortfalls and lengthy delays in project completions.

We are at a critical crossroads for addressing our mobility needs for the long-term, and while highway construction and widening projects will continue to be extremely important for our region, we need to demonstrate support for additional transportation options, especially transit.

The towns of Stallings, Matthews, and Indian Trail were awarded a federal planning grant in 2019 for transit-oriented development. We presented resolutions to the Metrolina Transit Commission in support of extending the LYNX Silver Line into Union County. In April of 2020, the Metrolina Transit Commission adopted a refined preferred alternative route that shows the Silver Line coming into Stallings along Highway 74, with a station near the new Atrium Health hospital and also a station in Indian Trail.

Implementation of this plan will necessarily require financial participation from the county.

Adding a tax on our citizens is never an easy decision. But the payoff over the long haul is monumental.

Charlotte made a bold move in 1997 by voting in a half-cent sales tax to build the LYNX Blue Line. And that tax was resoundingly reaffirmed in 2007 with 70% of the voters supporting it.

We believe that Union County voters are also ready to take a bold step to support the extension of the Silver Line.

Some naysayers argue that light rail doesn't pay for itself. The reality is no transportation pays for itself. I would however remind you that the LYNX Blue Line has attracted to date just under $3.3 billion in private real estate investment. And the extension out to the university that opened in 2018 already has $1.17 billion in new development.

We have 40,000 county residents commuting into Charlotte from Union County to work every day.

We desperately need another alternative. The Silver Line will give residents the opportunity, not only to get to work on a reliable time schedule, but also to get to the airport, to get to the Panther Stadium, the Knights Stadium and other stops in the area.

Please give residents the option of voting for this tax through a referendum on the ballot this fall.

Lynda Paxton serves as mayor pro tem of Stallings and vice chair of the Charlotte Area Regional Transportation Organization. She used to be mayor of Stallings.

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