LYNX Blue Line Extension to Begin Service in March 2018
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The LYNX Blue Line Extension (BLE) will not open in August 2017 as previously stated. The BLE will now open by March 2018, per the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)’s requirement, although CATS will work with contractors to identify any time-saving activities in order to open the system earlier. This updated opening date is due to construction coordination challenges, required testing, and safety reviews. The project continues to be under budget, and any additional costs due to the new opening date will not increase the original $1.16 billion budget.
Click here to read the press release.
Click here to read the Frequently Asked Questions.
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Project Opening Fast Facts:
The BLE will help move the Charlotte region forward
Americans believe that transit-oriented development brings several benefits to the community.
Infographic courtesy of HNTB America THINKS Study.
There is still work to be done…
Over 13,000 communication wires need to be spliced before the project is complete. We are approximately 50% done with splicing.
New trains each have to go through at least 1,000 hours of time on the rails before carrying passengers.
There are over 7,000 communication points on the LYNX Blue Line and the BLE that must be collaborated to effectively work together.
There will be 250-275 security cameras on Parking Decks and station platforms, and 60 additional cameras on ticket vending machines.
A table top and a full scale safety exercise must take place before the alignment can open.
There are currently 994 new residential units under construction along the BLE alignment.
When will the BLE open?
Although the new opening date for the LYNX BLE service is March 2018, CATS is committed to work with contractors to identify any time-saving activities that will allow the system to open earlier than March 2018, a requirement of the Federal Full Funding Grant Agreement with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
Why has the August 2017 date changed?
CATS has pursued every available option of schedule compression in an attempt to deliver the BLE to the Charlotte region by the August 2017 schedule. Contract incentives and additional staff added to construction contracts in 2015, done to mitigate early delays due to utility relocation, construction, weather, etc., were valuable investments that kept the project from extending past the March 2018 required opening. Even with these mitigation efforts, the ambitious schedule and ongoing construction coordination continue to be a challenge, and as a result, light rail service will not begin in August as previously communicated.
What will this cost taxpayers?
Currently, the BLE is $87 million under budget. Additional costs due to the schedule lengthening will not increase the original $1.16 billion project budget.
What if safety testing doesn’t go smoothly?
CATS will not accept any work that does not meet quality and safety standards and will not open the BLE until such standards are met. Further, revenue service will not begin until CATS has confirmed that the BLE is a safe and reliable system.
How will this impact businesses that are located along the alignment? How are you supporting businesses and residents who live in the affected construction area?
Ninety-one percent of the physical construction is completed, so businesses and residents should start to experience relief from traffic congestion as early as this spring. Businesses and residents can expect to see testing, landscaping and other finishing touches put in place. Intermittent lane closures will continue to occur but will become fewer and for shorter periods. CATS will continue to notify businesses and residents of upcoming lane and road closures as they occur.
What work remains?
Physical construction is 91% complete, and overall the project is approximately 80% complete. The following work still remains:
Traction Power Substation Testing
Overhead Catenary System Testing
Signal House Testing
Fiber Installation and Testing
Grade Crossing Installation and Testing
Completion of Central Communication House
Stations and Garages Communications Installation and Testing
Installation and Testing of new software system for Rail Operations Control Center
System Safety Certification
System Integrated Testing
Training and Pre-Revenue Service
Fare Collection Installation and Testing
When will 36th Street open? When will Sugar Creek Road open?
The 36th Street road closure will remain in place until Norfolk Southern Railroad has finished relocating their tracks which will be parallel to the BLE tracks at the 36th Street Station. Following successful track relocation, BLE contractors will finish constructing the underpass and begin installing sidewalks, bike lanes and pedestrian lighting. We project 36th Street opening by March 2018.
Sugar Creek Road is closed due to a North Carolina Department of Transportation Grade Separation project. Information about this closure can be found on NCDOT’s website or by calling 1-877-368-4968.
Why can't 36th Street open sooner?
Below is a detailed overview on the work that must happen before we can open 36th Street and why we cannot open a pedestrian path prior to the road opening.
1. Currently, neither vehicles nor pedestrians can continue down 36th street under the BLE and NS rail overpasses as sheet piling (which essentially forms a metal wall on both sides of the existing freight tracks) is in place. This cannot be removed until Norfolk Southern (NS) relocates their tracks onto the new alignment BLE has built for them.
2. Given the current projected timeline for NS to relocate the freight tracks onto the new alignment and NS rail overpass (June), along with the time it will take remove the sheet piling, that would put us into the summer time.
3. Once the shoring mentioned above has been removed, remaining excavation for 36th street between the BLE and NS bridge can continue.
4. The next step will be for the Civil A contractor to build two bridge abutments to support a future third bridge (in between the NS and BLE bridge) that would carry future high speed rail over 36th street. Additionally, walls between the bridges that run parallel to both sides of 36th street will be built. It is important to note that doing this abutment work for a future high speed rail bridge now is beneficial as it will decrease the amount of work and associated disruptions required in a future project.
5. Once the structural work is done, the contractor can then continue with utilities, roadway subgrade, paving/marking, sidewalks, etc which would take us towards the end of the year.
6. To summarize, the option for pedestrian path to be available in advance of the road opening is limited to step 5. It is questionable if this could even be introduced ahead of the entire roadway reopening as the tight quarters of the road passing under the bridges creates many safety challenges that would have to be worked out in order to safely provide a pedestrian pathway. At CATS, safety is our number one priority, so we will not open anything to pedestrians unless all appropriate safety measures are in place.
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