LYNX Blue Line Extension

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LYNX Northeast Corridor
Overview
Type Light rail
System LYNX Rapid Transit Services
Locale Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina
Termini 9th Street (south)
University of North Carolina at Charlotte (north)
Stations 11
Services
Operation
Opening 2017[1]
Owner Charlotte Area Transit System
Operator(s) Charlotte Area Transit System
Rolling stock Siemens Avanto S70
Technical
Line length 9.7 miles (15.6 km)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Electrification Overhead catenary
Route map
UNC Charlotte
JW Clay Bloulevard Free parking
McCullough
University City Boulevard Free parking
Tom Hunter
Old Concord Free parking
Sugar Creek Free parking
36th Street
25th Street
Parkwood
Charlotte Trolley terminates
9th Street
Charlotte Trolley, LYNX continues
[2]

The Northeast Corridor or Blue Line Extension is a light rail extension for the LYNX Blue Line and being built from the fall of 2013. It would connect directly with the existing Blue Line at the 7th Street station in Uptown Charlotte. The line will serve University City and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. It is proposed to follow a northeast path along the existing Norfolk Southern right-of-way along both North Davidson Street and North Tryon Street. It is currently planned to be 9.7 miles (17.7 km) in length with 11 stations.[1][3]

History[edit]

Planning (1985-2011)[edit]

LYNX car at the 7th Street Station

The prospect of developing a light rail line between UNC Charlotte and Uptown via Newell was initially evaluated in 1985.[4] The route was proposed for the then Southern Railway tracks, parallel to both North Tryon Street and Old Concord Road, and slated for completion at some point between 1995-2000.[4] After years of discussion and delays, in June 2006 the proposed route was chosen.[5]

The selected route would follow the existing Norfolk Southern right-of-way from Uptown through approximately Sugar Creek Road where it would parallel North Tryon Street to its terminus on the southern side of Interstate 485. Along the Norfolk Southern ROW, the light rail tracks would parallel existing freight lines and Amtrak passenger rail service. The routing also includes a station on the campus of UNCC.[5] The decision to not cross I-485 in order to extend the line to Salome Church Road was made based on an estimated $30 million cost for a bridge and a projected daily ridership to the station of only 200 passengers. Recent estimates for construction of the line have ranged from $928 million to $1.12 billion. This includes an increase in grade separations from earlier estimates and 300' long platforms to accommodate additional train cars.[6]

By November 2007, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) gave approval to begin the preliminary engineering work for the corridor, and in January 2008 the Charlotte City Council approved funding for this work to commence by March 2008.[7] The $30 million engineering study was expected to be complete by 2010, at which time the FTA would determine if federal funding was available for half of the projects construction.[7]

In July 2010, CATS announced that funding was being sought to extend the existing line to 9th Street to serve the UNC Charlotte Uptown Campus.[8]

Design (2011-2013)[edit]

On December 12, 2011, the FTA issued a record of decision for the line, confirming that the preliminary design passed the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, and allowing final design work to begin.[9] On the same day, an $18 million federal grant for the project was approved.[9]

On April 19, 2012, the N.C. Department of Transportation committed to paying for 25 percent ($290 m.) of the extension's estimated $1.16 b. final cost. Construction was set to begin in 2013.[10] On May 16, the North Carolina Railroad Company, CATS and Norfolk Southern signed lease, construction and operating agreements for the Lynx Blue Line Extension along the North Carolina Railroad Corridor.[11]

In July, the FTA gave its approval for CATS to enter the Final Design stage for the Blue Line Extension, allowing the project to be developed from the 65-100 percent design level and allowing complete preparation of final construction plans, right-of-way acquisition, construction cost estimates, bid documents and utility relocation. CATS could now plan to enter into a full funding grant agreement (FFGA) with the FTA, at which stage the FTA would commit to 50 percent funding for the project.[12]

On October 16, CATS signed the FFGA with the FTA. The FTA was made responsible for $580m of the projected $1.16b cost. NCDOT would spend $299m and CATS' share was $281m.[13]

In May 2013, some property owners living along the proposed route expressed concerns about inadequate compensation for property the city will need to acquire for building the line.[14]

Construction (2013-present)[edit]

On July 18, the official groundbreaking took place near the 9th Street Station; at the ceremony were the mayor of Charlotte Patsy Kinsey, UNCC chancellor Philip Dubois, federal transit administrator Peter Rogoff and N.C. Governor Pat McCrory, the former mayor of Charlotte and an initial supporter of the LYNX project.[15]

By the end of 2013, work began to shift underground utilities, build retaining walls and initiate grading and drainage work. By January 2014, final design work for the extension was over 95 percent complete, at a cost of nearly $80 million from a total budget of $187 million; the city had also acquired 261 of the 312 properties needed to construct the line for a cost of $69.7 million out of a total budget of $121.4 million. The remaining 51 properties were to be acquired by the end of January.

Major construction was scheduled to begin from March 2014. Engineering challenges will include burying 36th St. in NoDa and elevating the railway line in that area to make the intersection safer. The city decided to divide the extension into three segments to be divided between different contractors. On January 27, the city awarded a civil construction contract to a joint venture of Balfour Beatty Infastructure and Blythe Development Co., who will be paid $108 million to work on the first segment of the light-rail extension, from Uptown Charlotte to Old Concord Road. The joint venture was formed to work on improving drainage, building bridges, maintaining retaining walls, controlling traffic, and moving water and sewer mains. CATS chief executive Carolyn Flowers said the amount is $9 million less than the city had budgeted.[16]

The transit system will have a separate contract for the line from Old Concord Road to UNC Charlotte; it was scheduled to be awarded later in 2014. The contracts have a total budget of $558 million. The extension will be tested in December 2016, and is scheduled to open in spring 2017.[17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Blue Line Home Page"
  2. ^ "Rapid ransit Planning". Charlotte Area Transit System. Archived from the original on 2007-01-11. Retrieved 2007-01-13. 
  3. ^ "Project Overview "
  4. ^ a b Israel, Mae (1985-08-08). "County rail system ahead?". The Charlotte Observer. pp. Metro 1. 
  5. ^ a b Cimino, Karen (2006-06-29). "Rail route: UNCC, Yes - Crossing I-485, No". The Charlotte Observer. pp. 1B. 
  6. ^ LYNX Transitions Newsletter, Summer/Fall 2009
  7. ^ a b Harrison, Steve (2008-01-29). "Light Rail Extension Study to Start in March". The Charlotte Observer. pp. 1A. 
  8. ^ Harrison, Steve (July 22, 2010). "City wants federal grant for shorter Lynx extension". The Charlotte Observer. 
  9. ^ a b "CATS' light-rail line lands federal funds, nets favorable FTA decision". Progressive Railroading. December 14, 2011. Archived from the original on December 15, 2011. Retrieved December 16, 2011. 
  10. ^ "State commits to funding Lynx Blue Line Extension to UNCC
  11. ^ "Charlotte LYNX Blue Line Light Rail Project Reaches Milestone With North Carolina Railroad Agreement"
  12. ^ "CATS Receives Green Light for Blue Line Extension to Enter Final Design "
  13. ^ "Light-rail extension moves to fast track". charlotteobserver.com. October 16, 2012. 
  14. ^ Milicevic, Jessica (May 12, 2013). "Residents worry about proposed Blue Line path". The Charlotte Observer: Lake Norman News. 
  15. ^ Haggerty, Neil (July 18, 2013). "LYNX Blue Line light rail extension breaks ground". The Charlotte Observer. 
  16. ^ Harrison, Steve (27 January 2014). "Charlotte makes $12 million bet on streetcar". The Charlotte Observer. 
  17. ^ Harrison, Steve (January 13, 2014). "Light-rail construction for Blue Line extension to begin in March". The Charlotte Observer.