Politics & Government

A key city bridge closed for streetcar construction. Now, it won’t reopen on time.

Construction has halted on a bridge over Independence Boulevard that’s meant to carry the second phase of the Gold Line streetcar because steel girders for the project don’t fit the project’s specifications.

The Charlotte Area Transit System said the Hawthorne Lane bridge won’t be complete by the original target date of March. A spokeswoman for CATS said project managers are trying to “minimize overall schedule impact.”

The bridge has been closed since July 2017, when the old Hawthorne Lane bridge was demolished to make way for Phase Two of the Gold Line. The 2.5-mile, $150 million extension is meant to run from just north of Central Avenue through uptown and west to Johnson C. Smith University. It’s funded by the local half-cent sales tax and a federal grant, split 50-50.

Julianne Sheldon said the problem with the bridge was noticed when workers were setting the girders in place recently.

“A problem with girder alignment was identified when the steel girders were placed over the eastbound lanes of Independence Boulevard,” she said in a statement. “The vertical alignment of the girders is not in tolerance. This means, the curvature in the girders does not fit required contract specifications.”

The partially finished bridge is safe for the thousands of drivers who pass underneath it every day, Sheldon said.

“The girders are securely anchored to the bridge end bents. The alignment issue has to do with the elevation of the bridge not the structural integrity,” she said.

But it’s unclear how long the problem will take to correct. The city is meeting with contractors to develop a timeline, and work is continuing on other portions of the track, including in the West End, on West Trade Street in uptown and in Elizabeth.

Service is supposed to start in August 2020 along the four-mile Gold Line route.

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Ely Portillo covers local and state government for the Charlotte Observer, where he has previously written about growth, crime, the airport and a five-legged puppy. He grew up in Maryland and attended Harvard University.