Charlotte City Council on Monday approved pouring an additional $13 million into three contracts for construction on the Lynx Blue Line – a step transit officials said was crucial to keeping the $1.1 billion project on schedule.
Republican Kenny Smith was the only council member to vote against adding money to a more than $28 million contract for a five-level parking garage on J.W. Clay Boulevard. Carolinas Healthcare System and UNC Charlotte will contribute $1.2 million to building the garage, slated to include 800 parking spaces, two bus bays along a private street, elevators and a pedestrian bridge that connects the garage to the station platform.
Smith said he did not feel the company selected for the job, China Construction America of South Carolina, had a comprehensive enough “body of work” to handle the parking deck. Still, council endorsed increasing the company’s contract by $4 million.
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The companies must use the extra money for added manpower to speed construction, said John Lewis, Charlotte Area Transit System’s chief executive.
The contract increases are the latest in a batch of change orders CATS has requested to expedite work on the rail extension, which will connect uptown to UNC Charlotte. Much of the 9-mile extension will run in the median of North Tryon Street, and it is expected to debut in August 2017.
Last year, the city added $19.5 million to construction contracts, and another $21 million a few months earlier. Danny Rogers, CATS’ project director for the extension, said Monday the city still has $147 million in project contingency.
“The project is extremely complex, with multiple third-party requirements and coordination,” Lewis said. “We have negotiated amendments to contracts … to ensure we recover and accelerate the schedule of a summer 2017 opening.”
The city has 17 different construction contracts to finish the extension.
The first four train cars have arrived in Charlotte for testing, Lewis said. The rest of the cars will remain in Sacramento, Calif., until the city finishes constructing storage facilities.
Council members praised CATS’ progress – particularly councilwoman Claire Fallon, who said “I never thought it would come. We worked on this for so many years.”
Council also approved a $2 million contract with Duke Energy to install 374 street lights and 222 pedestrian lights along the rail extension. Once they’re installed, the city will pay $8,500 a month to keep the lights on.