The Lynx Blue Line Extension to UNC Charlotte won’t open in August 2017 as planned and might not be done until next March, the Charlotte Area Transit System said Monday night.
Delays in moving utilities, and other problems, have made it impossible for CATS to open the line this year, CATS chief executive John Lewis said. While most of the track has been laid and the stations have been finished, there are “thousands of electrical connections that need to be made,” Lewis said.
Other unfinished work includes testing vehicles and signals.
Lewis said he thinks the $1.1 billion extension will be finished by March 2018 – the federal government’s deadline for CATS to finish the project. Lewis didn’t say what would happen if CATS couldn’t open the train by March. CATS didn’t know if it might have to pay financial penalties for missing the deadline.
“I’m confident that we will meet that deadline,” Lewis said.
Construction on the 9.3-mile extension began three years ago. CATS divided construction work among numerous contractors and different segments, and the project fell behind. One problem was moving utilities. Another complication was working along the Norfolk Southern railroad.
“We are down to the wire,” Lewis said. “But there isn’t enough time to finish the kind of detail and signals and system work that’s left while still leaving enough time to test.”
Lewis said the $1.16 billion project is still $87 million under budget. He said he doesn’t believe the project will go over budget.
CATS hoped that the lead contractor, Balfour Beatty, would be able to turn over the rail corridor to CATS in March. Lewis said CATS will have a better idea in May whether the project could open before March 2018.
The line will connect uptown to UNC Charlotte, and CATS hoped to have the train in time for the start of the fall semester.
Council member Greg Phipps, who represents University City, said he was “disappointed” by the news.
“A lot of advertising and promotions were tied to that August 2017 date,” he said. “But there is nothing we can do at this point.”
Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs
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