by: Jim Bradley Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - After years of talking and planning, construction on the anticipated extension of Charlotte's light-rail line is about to begin.
The Charlotte Area Transit System is expected to get approval in just a few weeks to sign contracts to begin building the next leg of the Blue Line, which will stretch from uptown Charlotte to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
"People can expect to see a lot more construction happening along the alignment," said CATS spokesperson Judy Dellert-O'Keef. "You're going to see more barrels in the road and more equipment out there."
Crews can now be seen along North Tryon Street moving utility lines to make way for the light-rail line.
CATS said it expects work to begin clearing and widening the pathway to begin in March along the entire line.
"I think it's a huge deal," said urban planner David Walters. "It gives us the beginnings of a system rather than just a line," he said.
Walters expects the next three years of construction to cause frustrations for drivers due to construction, much of which will happen in the middle of busy North Tryon Street.
He also believes economic development will follow the light-rail line north just as it has already done in the South End.
"As we speak, developers and designers are lining up projects and developing visions for a new future," Walters says.
When it's finished, the Blue Line extension will include 11 passenger stations and four park-and-ride locations.
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