Thank you, Mr. Mayor, for those very kind words of introduction. As always, it is great to be in the Queen City. And it is wonderful to see so many good friends and to celebrate this important day for the light rail project and Charlotte's transportation infrastructure. I want to particularly recognize the hard work and dedication of Representative Sue Myrick, who as mayor of Charlotte was the woman who realized the key benefits of the light rail project, and, indeed, it takes vision and dedicated people to see it through. I want to thank Congressmen Robin Hayes and Mel Watt for their continued efforts, the support of our representatives in the state government, and of course, the outstanding work of Mayor McCrory, City Councilman Pat Mumford, who chairs the Transportation Committee, and the Chief Executive Officer of CATS, Ron Tober and their staffs.
Some of you have asked about my husband—and it brings to mind—speaking of infrastructure—my confirmation hearing before the Commerce Committee to serve as secretary of transportation. When Bob Dole introduced me, he paraphrased Nathan Hale, saying, "I regret that I have but one wife to give for my country's infrastructure." Now that part was fine—so far, so good—but then he suggested the Federal Highway Administration might consider using my biscuit recipe to fill potholes! I achieved some revenge when I fired back that I knew all about airbags—I had been driving around with one for years!
Jenna Dorn, Administrator, Federal Transit Administration, remembers that day well, for during my time at the Transportation Department, one of the "stars" on my team was my friend, Jenna. We are fortunate indeed to have her here today to sign the Full Funding Grant Agreement. Jenna is top notch, ladies and gentlemen, and has really put forth a strong effort for this project. For all your hard work, your dedication and extremely effective service to the public, I thank you, Jenna.
We have so much to be proud of here today. In 1998, a strong majority of people in Charlotte chose to take the first step in a journey that has brought us to this day—to sign the agreement that will officially start the construction of the first of five corridors of Charlotte's 2025 Transit System Plan.
Many people talk about how this South Corridor Light Rail project will result in a cleaner environment, which it will. They say this project will reduce congestion and energy consumption, which it will. All these benefits are vitally important, but just as important to me is the fact that this light rail will create stronger, more vibrant neighborhoods with a sense of community and new opportunities for the people of Charlotte. In fact, private investment around the stations of this project is expected to total more than $350 million dollars.
I want to give special thanks to Tony Pressley, the developer who had the vision for the neighborhoods around the light rail stations and attorney Jeff Davis who was the driving force behind reestablishing the historic trolley—which lets all see the importance that transit has and will continue to play here in Charlotte.
In the Senate, we are working on the Surface Transportation bill, which is critical to Charlotte and the entire state. A greater investment in transportation infrastructure translates into improved roads, less traffic, economic development and job creation. North Carolina will receive more funding than ever before in this legislation because of progress we are making on the highway formula and also because of transit projects like this, which access new support for our North Carolina communities. This will translate into millions of dollars more for North Carolina's infrastructure.
Over the next 25 years, the population of Charlotte region is predicted to double! The Charlotte light rail is a model for how growing cities meet transportation and urban development challenges and work toward a brighter tomorrow for all citizens.
Again, it is a privilege to join you today and it is an honor to serve you in the United States Senate. God bless each and every one of you, and God bless this great land of the free—America.