CHARLOTTE - If you look closely under the snow and ice along the billion-dollar Blue Line Extension you'll see freshly set concrete and newly positioned warning pavers.
Thirty pedestrian rail crossings have been quickly fixed after a Whistleblower 9 investigation last week.
Construction crews scrambled to beat the winter storm over the weekend and correct a design flaw that may have resulted in crossing gates closing directly onto blind pedestrians.
Charlotte City Council representative Tariq Bokhari says Whistleblower 9's reporting put this issue on his radar and he started asking CATS questions.
"As a fiscal conservative, I am on the hunt to find wasted taxpayer dollars," Bokhari told Investigative Reporter Paul Boyd, "What's been told back to me is this is a couple thousand dollars per instance."
A construction industry source with knowledge of the project told Whistleblower 9 at least $125 thousand dollars was spent altogether to fix the problem.
Bokhari said he dug further into the issue and was told the changes originated because of an effort to enhance pedestrian safety on the extended Blue Line.
"That change was made voluntarily in an effort to prevent people from doing dumb things and beat the arm [and to] increase safety," Bokhari said, "And by doing it, there was a further impact and now they had to make that adjustment."
CATS stands by its statement last week that safety is its priority. Bokhari agrees, but says he'll be closely watching how tax dollars are spent on city projects going forward.
"I really appreciate that level of local investigative reporting and we need more of that," said Bokhari.
CATS sent us this statement Thursday:
Every pedestrian crossing along the LYNX Blue Line Extension has detectable warning strips to provide an alert for visually-impaired pedestrians as they approach the tracks. In addition, CATS has installed pedestrian safety gates, an added safety enhancement exceeding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, to provide a maximum level of safety for pedestrians.
During recent inspections as part of our due diligence process, the Blue Line Extension (BLE) team determined that the detectable warning strips needed to be shifted to ensure visually-impaired pedestrians would be clear of the new pedestrian safety gates. CATS has completed the adjustment work of the detectable warning strips at all crossings with a pedestrian safety gate. The Blue Line Extension project remains under budget and on time. The total project budget is $1.16 billion, and the estimated cost of $100,000 associated with moving the warning strips is covered within the contingency planned for the project.
We are excited to see all of you on March 16, 2018!
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