CHARLOTTE, N.C. - After months of delays and billions of dollars spent, the LYNX Blue Line Extension opened Friday morning.
The extension offers a new access point to the University of North Carolina Charlotte and features 11 stops from campus to uptown.
“The City’s largest infrastructure project is now a reality. Beginning today, we have a seamless connection between south and northeast Charlotte, delivering jobs, education and entertainment to the community,” said Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles.
The crowds lined up all morning to take the first trains from UNCC to uptown, beginning with the first one that left after a second ceremonial ribbon cutting.
The first train officially left the station at 10:04 a.m. for the ride to Ninth Street in uptown. It's a little more than 9 miles and took around 25 minutes, making all the stops along the way.
The train was packed with students, media and others who wanted to be a part of history.
“I am a retired MTA worker so I was very happy to see that Charlotte is being up-and-coming as far as transportation is concerned,” said University City resident, Jetta Bailey.
The opening of the extension is huge for the north Charlotte area, and new apartments and businesses have already begun to pop up along the route.
“It looks different already, just with the infrastructure with the light rail," said Darlene Heater, executive director of University City Partners.
Channel 9 past coverage on LYNX Blue Line Extension:
- Whistleblower 9 exclusive: Serious design flaw on Lynx Blue Line extension
- Pedestrian rail crossings fixed along new Blue Line Extension
- UNCC police prepare for opening of Blue Line extension
- Ribbon-cutting for Blue Line Extension days after crossing gate problems
- CATS trains test stop arms, signaling lights along Blue Line extension
- CATS bus changes due to LYNX Blue Line Extension Opening
- Lynx Blue Line extension trains to run more frequently
- CATS CEO speaks to Channel 9 about Blue Line Extension delays
- Malfunction causes gates to close again along Blue Line Extension
- City Council approves additional $15.3M for Blue Line Extension
- Emails shed light on Blue Line extension project delay
Starting Monday morning, the first southbound train will leave UNCC at 4:50 a.m. and arrive at the Transit Center in uptown at 5:23 a.m.
Trains will run every eight minutes during rush hour, which is between 6:30 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. and between 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.
UNCC police have taken steps to make sure the public feels safe when the extension opens. Channel 9 was told nearly 90 officers will be patrolling the rail cars and platforms, in addition to the security provided by CATS.
UNCC will have an officer at the school’s platform at all times and the university also added lighting and extra emergency call boxes.
“It'll be great for the city, partly because transportation lines like the light rail are great for the city,” said Tom Torkildsen.
UNCC police also said multiple cameras were installed, giving them a direct feed to monitor everything happening at the stop.
Tickets for the light rail cost $2.20 each way, but UNCC students will be able to ride without buying a ticket because of a transportation fee built into their tuition.
The city of Charlotte hosted a job fair Friday to coincide with the route opening. It will feature companies that are easily accessible from the Blue Line.
Nearly 20 Charlotte businesses hosted offered full-time and part-time positions.
The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority officials hope the new connection fills job opening within the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the Charlotte Convention Center. Officials said expensive and sparse parking in uptown has stopped some from taking jobs.
"There are a lot of part-time employees who struggle. This light rail will really help them not having to worry about parking when they get to work," Mandy Valentine, with the CRVA, said.
On Saturday, children under 12 can ride the Blue Line for free with their parents from the JW Clay Boulevard station between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.
The opening of the extension has not come without some problems. In fact, sources close to CATS told Channel 9 they had some electrical issues to deal with early Friday morning.
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