Neighbors losing patience with Charlotte streetcar construction

CHARLOTTE, NC — Loud noises, huge construction equipment, and debris have become regular sights in the historic Elizabeth neighborhood as an extension of the streetcar system is built out into west Charlotte.

Laura Williams has a front-row seat on what was once a quiet residential street that is now home to giant concrete pipes, piles of gravel, and trash and debris. She says it's been going on for months.

"It’s frustrating, and I think we are reasonable residents. We are not expecting the world, but certainly some accountability from CATS (Charlotte Area Transit System) and the city," she said.

The extension of the CityLYNX Gold Line isn't set to open until 2020, meaning hundreds of people who live nearby will be dealing with construction for a while.

"Having to live through that through a period of years, honestly, it weighs on us," said Williams.

Since work started, a chain link fence has gone up around the project and Hawthorne Lane has been turned into a single-lane, one-way street. But the memo hasn’t made its way to all drivers who can be seen breaking the rules.

And the streetcar project already has one casualty. A once-popular seafood market had to shut down because it lost so much money. And there’s another business on the other side of the barriers that worries it’s next.

"It has been greatly impacting us," said Nick Link, general manager of Hawthorne's Pizza.  "All this mud, all this dirt, all this disarray, if it rains it turns into a big muddy mess."

Link said he has had to cut staffing because business is off about 25 percent.

"It’s very frustrating, especially when you see how many years it is going to take," he said.

CATS declined our request for an on-camera interview about the project but says the department is working with the contractor to address neighbor concerns and keep the work zone as tidy as possible.

Larken Egleston represents the neighborhood on city council. He says he has personally seen sloppy conditions and is going to make sure CATS lives up to its word.

"I’ve been out here, walked the site, and I have seen some things that weren't satisfactory," he said.

Egleston said he wants the construction to be the least disruptive as possible. Williams says the way things are going she isn’t that excited for the future service.

"If we have a streetcar or don’t have a streetcar, I am almost apathetic at this point," she said.

CATS says the contract allows for construction equipment and stored materials in the area, but the contractor is responsible for keeping the zone clean and safe. Transportation leaders say they are emailing businesses weekly about what to expect from the construction.

The CATS CEO said, in an email to residents, that he met with three councilmembers to discuss their concerns.

CATS will meet with community members at any time to discuss the project.