Businesses struggle as road work continues for streetcar project

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Suffering businesses in west Charlotte still have to endure another 18 months of road work before a massive project is complete.

A stretch of West Trade Street has been closed from I-77 to Johnson C. Smith University since April while crews have laid underground utilities for the Gold Line streetcar extension.

[LYNX Gold Line construction to close West Trade Street for 6 months]

As crews now enter the next phase of construction, they will reopen the ramp for I-77 and open a lane to Rozzelles Ferry Road.

Workers at a neighborhood market ringed with construction barrels told Channel 9 they thought the project would be over by Monday because the Charlotte Department of Transportation said the road would open back up then.

Instead, Channel 9 learned the project won't be finished until 2020.

An official with CDOT said the project isn't delayed. Instead, CDOT said its initial announcement may not have been clear enough, so now it wants to make it clear.

Closures and road work will continue for another 18 months, but on Monday, crews will reopen the ramp for I-77 and try to open a lane to Rozzelles Ferry Road.

"It's just been frustrating," said Mike, who did not want to reveal his last name.

He works at a nearby tire shop and said the past six months have been difficult.

"They've got roadblocks and detours; all that. It's just a mess," he said.

On the worst days, Mike said, the shop only sees one or two customers and makes as little as $35.

"Business has slowed down, and a lot of dust and dirt and a lot of confusion," he said.

A spokeswoman for CATS said the department has been working with businesses throughout the process. She thinks the next 18 months will be easier than the past six months.

"I certainly hope that businesses and residents, in general, don't feel as impacted by construction. Our goal is to make it as easy to navigate as possible," said CATS community relations specialist Juliann Sheldon.

Workers like Mike said he's still not convinced improvements are on the way.

[Neighbors losing patience with Charlotte streetcar construction]

"I talked to a couple of the workers and they say this is just the beginning; it's going to get worse," he said.

CDOT said it could start laying the tracks for the streetcar in January 2019. Officials hope to finish the project in the spring of 2020.

This isn't the first time the streetcar extension project has disrupted business.

[Portion of Hawthorne Lane, closed since summer, reopens in Elizabeth]

In Elizabeth, it has already forced at least one shop to close and caused Hawthorne's Pizza to cut employees after it lost 25 percent of its sales, which amounted to $500,000.

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