Streetcar work to close two uptown Charlotte streets temporarily

Parts of two uptown Charlotte streets are about to close temporarily to accommodate work on the first phase of the city’s planned four-mile streetcar line, known as the CityLynx Gold Line, the Charlotte Department of Transportation announced Friday.

From 2 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, the 200 and 300 blocks of East Fifth Street between North College and North Brevard streets will close so crews can tie the new streetcar track to the existing Lynx Blue Line.

Motorists on eastbound East Fifth can use North College, East Seventh and North Brevard streets as a detour.

Local access will be maintained, although pedestrians won’t be allowed to cross the Lynx Blue Line tracks. CATS service will be affected.

The southbound lanes of the 100 block of North McDowell Street between Fourth and East Trade streets will close at 9 a.m. Monday and reopen at 6 a.m. Dec. 22.

Northbound McDowell will be unaffected.

Motorists on southbound McDowell can use East Sixth, Davidson and East Third streets as a detour.

The first segment of the streetcar, a 1.5-mile stretch from Time Warner Cable Arena to Elizabeth, is projected to cost $37 million, funded in part by a $25 million federal grant, the Observer has reported.

The city’s plan is to extend that line to the west to Johnson C. Smith University and to the east by going along Hawthorne Avenue to Sunnyside Lane. That will bring the streetcar to four miles. That second phase is expected to cost $150 million. The city is asking the federal government to pay for half of the costs.

To carry a passenger a mile on the streetcar, the Charlotte Area Transit System projects it will cost $1.58 in 2019, when the second phase of the project is expected to open. For comparison, in 2012, it cost CATS 77 cents to move a bus passenger one mile. A Lynx Blue Line passenger’s 1-mile trip was 68 cents, according to a federal database, the Observer reported.

The streetcar’s construction and operating costs have come under scrutiny from some City Council members, in part because the city – not CATS – will pay the bill. The transit system has told the city it can’t afford to build or maintain the line.