Charlotte streetcar opening delayed until June

The opening of Charlotte’s streetcar has been delayed by three months until June, the result of errors made by the contractor, a joint venture between Balfour Beatty and Blythe Development, the city said Wednesday.

Jeb Blackwell, the city’s engineer, said the contractors had put extra crews on the project but were unable to catch up after falling behind last summer. In December, the contractors had to remove 700 feet of track on Trade Street that had been improperly installed and was off by a half inch.

The city said the contractor is being fined $1,000 a day for the delay until the project is finished. The fines started Dec. 23.

The city expects construction to wrap up at the end of February. The city will then begin testing the 1.5-mile streetcar line, which will run from Time Warner Cable Arena to Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center.

“In March the trains will be running,” said Blackwell. “But you won’t be able to ride it yet.”

The project costs $37 million. Most of the cost – $25 million – is funded by a federal grant. The construction contract is for $26 million, with the rest of the money going to real estate purchases, consulting and startup costs. When it opens, it will initially be free to ride.

The city said the Federal Transit Administration approved of the change in schedule.

Blackwell said the track has been laid, and the overhead wires that power the streetcars mostly have been finished. Landscaping, curb and gutter fixes, and the installation of stations still need to be finished.

The streetcar has been a controversial transit project, with some questioning whether people will use the line. The city is trying to extend this starter line by 2.5 miles, to Johnson C. Smith University to the west and the Elizabeth neighborhood to the east.