by: Jim Bradley Updated:
CHARLOTTE - If you're planning to go to NoDa anytime soon, you may want to double-check your route. One of the most popular streets leading into the heart of the north Charlotte arts district is being closed off to make way for the city's light-rail line.
Monday morning, crews put up barricades on 36th Street on either side of railroad tracks. The move cuts off access to NoDa from the North Tryon Street side of 36th. Despite signs and warnings, many drivers were surprised that through traffic was no longer possible.
"I just dropped my wife off and then was on my way here thinking I'm going to the YMCA and I see the road is closed," said driver Christian Watkins.
Watkins was even more surprised to learn that the closure will remain in place for the next two years. CATS, which is building the light-rail line from Uptown Charlotte to UNC Charlotte, says it needs that much time to complete all the work necessary to add a light-rail stop near NoDa.
"When you start building two bridges, lowering the road 12 to 14 feet and moving all of the utilities that are in the road it takes two years," said Jill Brim, a senior engineer on the Blue Line extension.
Drivers will still be able to get to NoDa from North Tryon Street via the Matheson Street Connector or Sugar Creek Road, but many who work in and visit NoDa say it'll be a major inconvenience.
At the Smelly Cat, coffee house worker Frankie Bruner told us, "It's confusing a lot of people. A lot of people are upset. I'm a little upset because I had to change my whole route this morning."
Once CATS finishes the project, traffic will run beneath the light-rail tracks -- meaning drivers won't have to stop for trains as they do now for freight traffic. But for two years no cars, bikes or pedestrian traffic will be allowed all the way through 36th Street. Joe Flanagan isn't looking forward to the hassle. "We used to just walk to lunch," Flanagan said, "Now we can't do that for a while."
CDOT DOCUMENT: More information on the closure