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Charlotte - January 2002
   

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Charlotte, NC — Trolley Delayed

Rail Transit Online – January 2002

News that a proposed extension of the heritage trolley to the uptown area could be delayed about three years has shocked business owners and elected officials who were counting on a late 2002 startup. “I feel crushed,” Charlotte City Council member Lynn Wheeler told the Charlotte Observer. “There are businesses that built along that line, thinking the trolley was coming soon.  This could be devastating to them.” The problem stems from a bold plan to run the streetcars, and a light rail system that was to open in 2005 using the same tracks, through the main concourse of the Charlotte Convention Center. But as the result of recently discovered safety and logistical problems, center officials now want to combine the two projects to avoid disrupting the facility twice and to enhance the likelihood of getting 75 percent of the capital cost from federal and state governments. Not only has the price gone up, increasing the need for federal and state funding, engineers are now wondering whether it’s a good idea to have trains operate across the busy concourse where large crowds of delegates would have to walk across the tracks. 

Infrequent trolley service, it was thought, would not be a problem, and it was decided to install a glass wall with automatic doors that would close when a car was in the building. But to handle LRVs, which are quieter than vintage streetcars and would run far more often, additional protection was needed. So an expensive glass tunnel was proposed, requiring an underpass with stairs and escalators to carry people beneath the tracks.  When the cost escalated from around $10 million for the glass wall to $32 million for the tunnel and underpass, it was decided to merge the trolley and LRT projects. The city council is expected to take up a postponement request early next year but Jeff Davis, president of the nonprofit Charlotte Trolley Inc., said he will attempt to get the extension back on budget and on schedule. The trolley now operates on about two miles of South Boulevard using one restored car built for Charlotte in 1928 and powered by a pushed/towed generator.   contract has been awarded for the 1.96-mile extension to uptown but it does not include the convention center segment. 

 

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