• Elizabeth neighbors exhausted after latest bridge construction delay

    By: Mark Barber , Blaine Tolison

    Updated:

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Elizabeth neighborhood residents may already be sick of the construction on the Hawthorne Lane Bridge, but the problems there are getting worse.

    Channel 9 reported in January that the Charlotte Area Transit System found problems with the bridge's girders, and now there are new issues that will cause several more months of delays.

    [MORE: Hawthorne Street Bridge construction stalls; beams need to be replaced]

    Work ground to a halt in January after the contractor had the wrong size girders. Channel 9 has learned that it won’t be a quick fix because the contractor has to create entirely new steel girders -- which won’t be ready until the fall.

    In the meantime, CATS CEO John Lewis said construction on the rest of the Gold Line is still moving forward.

    “We are doubling up on other areas of the project,” Lewis said. “We are installing more rail faster than we would have under the initial contract.”

    [ALSO READ: Neighbors losing patience with Charlotte streetcar construction]

    The bridge was supposed to be open by now, and neighbors who have been dealing with construction for more than a year said they are exhausted.

    "It doesn't take a construction expert to figure out that things are not well," said neighbor Morgan Williams.

    Williams has lived in the Elizabeth neighborhood next to the Hawthorne Bridge for 11 years and as an active member of the community, he said there's a collective objection to Lewis' excuses for the streetcar issues.

    [ALSO READ: CATS not ruling out demolition, project delays after bridge construction failure]

    "I don't think we can continue to buy into the false narratives that all is good and everything is on time," said Williams.

    Some Charlotte city leaders questioned quality control during a strategy session Monday evening pushing Lewis' presentation well over an hour long.

    Lewis repeatedly said the 2020 Republican National Convention is the reason for the six-month extension of the streetcar project.

    The project has been delayed to 2021 because crews can’t test the line while the RNC is in Charlotte.

    "The contractor is taking the resources that would’ve been working on the bridge and doubling up on other areas of the project,” said Lewis.

    [CATS says streetcar expansion significantly delayed because of RNC]

    Councilman Larken Egleston, whose district covers Elizabeth, believes the RNC is only one issue among many others. He said check and balances are needed.

    "I think we can do a better job of that. We need to know what milestones they're trying to hit on what dates and are they hitting them?" said Egleston.

    When the Gold Line is finished, the streetcar will run from Plaza Midwood through uptown to Johnson C. Smith University.

    Elizabeth neighbors have a meeting with CATS officials Monday and many are hoping for a candid discussion.

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