The US Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has given approval to the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) to enter into the final design phase for the 9.3-mile light rail LYNX Blue Line Extension (BLE), in Charlotte, North Carolina, US.
The approval enables the project to be developed from the 65% to 100% design level, and allows CATS to finish preparation of construction plans, right-of-way acquisition, construction cost estimates, bid documents and utility relocation.
The BLE project will extend the existing light rail line that will serve the Northeast Corridor from Center City to UNC Charlotte.
Carolyn Flowers, CATS CEO, said: "Today’s announcement represents another positive step toward providing Charlotte residents and visitors with more affordable, efficient and environmentally responsible transportation options."
Entering the final design stage will enable CATS to continue with plans to enter into a full funding grant agreement with the FTA, the point at which the administration commits to funding half of the project.
Officials from CATS expect to receive final FTA approval of federal matching funds before the end of 2012.
The project includes the extension of the LYNX Blue Line light rail service from Uptown Charlotte to the University of North Carolina-Charlotte campus, including 11 light-rail stations and four parking lots.
Construction of the Blue Line Extension is scheduled to start in 2013, and the light rail service will operate in nearly three miles of North Carolina Railroad’s (NCRR) corridor when it opens in 2017.
In May 2012, NCRR, CATS, and Norfolk Southern (NSC) signed a 50-year lease, construction and operating agreement for the BLE project.
Under the deal, CATS will make enhanced safety improvements at 36th Street for freight and future passenger rail service by constructing a bridge over the railroad tier for pedestrians and vehicles.
CATS will also build, operate and maintain the BLE via North Charlotte, under additional operational and construction agreements with Norfolk Southern.
Image: 7th Street Station on Charlotte’s LYNX light rail system. Photo: courtesy of Justin Ruckman.