|Streetcar construction will mean congestion and opportunity|
|CityLynx Gold Line forums offer feedback|
|Published Wednesday, November 11, 2015 11:27 am|
|PHOTO/CHARLOTTE AREA TRANSIT SYSTEM|
|Artist rendering of the entrance to Johnson C. Smith University once CityLynx Gold Line construction reaches Beatties Ford Road.|
Streetcar construction is a messy process.
As the next phase of the CityLynx Gold Line gets underway, Charlotte Area Transit System officials are meeting neighbors in east and west Charlotte with public meetings to discuss the project’s progress. A meeting was held Tuesday at Johnson C. Smith University. Another will be held November 12 from 6–7:30 p.m. at Hawthorne Lane United Methodist Church, Evans Hall, 501 Hawthorne Lane.
The two public meetings will inform the community on phase 2 planning updates, construction information, and will provide citizens with an opportunity to ask questions.
“It’s critical to make sure we’re keeping people informed of what’s going on with the project and the progress with it,” Gold Line project manager David McDonald said. “We’re getting to the point where we’re developing the schedule, talking about when construction is going to start, the impact that will be associated with construction.”
Right of way acquisition for Phase 2 of the project starts in January and construction begins in October 2016. Utility relocation starts this this month.
“We know that construction is messy, but we also know construction is progress,” said Historic Washington Heights Neighborhood Association President Mattie Marshall. “We’re turning the dirt, and I think we’re very excited about that.”
The 10-mile streetcar line represents economic opportunity for east and west Charlotte by linking neighborhoods that historically have been overlooked for investment. At the Gold Line’s launch in July, U.S. Transportation Secretary and former Charlotte mayor Anthony Foxx called the service a new era in economic development.
“Nothing about it has been easy or will be easy, but in the process of making it happen, Charlotte has a chance to turn the page,” said Foxx, who grew up in west Charlotte. “This is not a streetcar to nowhere. In fact, if it is, then my hometown is Nowhere, North Carolina, because I grew up on the west end of the streetcar line.”
The initial 1.5-mile section of track is operational, connecting the Charlotte Transportation Center along Trade Street to Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center on Hawthorne Lane. The daily service – which is free for now – starts at 6 a.m. weekdays and ends at 12 a.m. on weekends. When it is completed, the line will extend westward along Trade to JCSU.
“We’ve been doing this for several years now, even before I came on council,” said City Council member Al Austin, who represents District 2, which includes west Charlotte. “We want to make sure the community is engaged and involved in this process. This is a very good project. This is a $150 million infrastructure for Beatties Ford Road. We would not be able to afford that, or have a matching grant from the federal government by ourselves for this much infrastructure.”
Building the infrastructure comes with a price, however. There’ll be increased traffic congestion and closed streets along the route, especially along Hawthorne between Central Avenue and Seventh Street as a bridge and center pier are replaced. That closure is expected to take 12-18 months.
“We want to make sure we’re out keeping people informed so they understand what’s coming,” McDonald said. “We’re answering their questions and we’re available to be reached if they have additional questions.”
Said Marshall: “We’ve worked very hard to make sure this happens along the West Trade-Beatties Ford Road area and also to connect the east and westside. Now we can not only be connected north and south, but east and west as well. “It’s our economic engine. It’s our time. I’m very pleased with the progress we’re making and continue to make.”
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