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Charlotte approves light-rail extension projects

The Charlotte City Council on Monday approved four projects related to the Lynx Blue Line Extension that city officials said were critical to maintaining an aggressive schedule for opening in summer 2017.
The proposal to approve a change order of up to $4 million to China Construction America of South Carolina Inc., for the J.W. Clay Boulevard parking garage, however, drew opposition from District 6 Councilman Kenny Smith.
Smith, a Republican, questioned whether China Construction had a “comprehensive body of work” for him to feel comfortable with the company handling the work.
Smith in August 2014 raised similar concerns and opposed awarding the low-bid contract of $24.7 million to China Construction for construction of the parking garage.
The company, which opened in 1999, operates from Columbia, South Carolina, and lists several major projects over the past decade on its website. The company came to South Carolina to build a refrigeration facility in Camden.
The BLE parking garage will have five levels with 800 parking spaces.
The change order approved by the council will allow a pedestrian bridge to be extended from the station platform to the east side of North Tryon Street and represents the entire cost of construction.
It will be paid with existing project contingency funds and $1.2 million in financial contributions, split evenly between the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Carolinas HealthCare System in exchange for branding opportunities on the structure.
Council members, meeting at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, also approved, without dissent, a $4.5 million change order to the civil construction contract for the B/C segment of the extension with Lane Construction Corp.
The change order will transfer $4.5 million from the overall BLE project contingency to the contract with Lane to speed the project and complete work items such as upgrading fencing along North Tryon Street and modifying intersection design to improve pedestrian safety.
The total value of the Lane contract is now $145.2 million, city officials said.
In addition, council members approved a $4.5 million amendment to the BLE track and systems contract with Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc.
The amendment will settle all contractor claims related to delay through Dec. 15, 2015, and add incentives for the contractor to meet the projected summer 2017 opening.
Further, council members authorized the city manager to negotiate and execute agreements totaling $2 million with Duke Energy for installation of street and pedestrian lighting for the BLE project.
As part of the project, the Charlotte Area Transit System will make a one-time, upfront payment for LED lighting to be provided and installed by Duke Energy.
The payment estimate is based upon installation of 374 street lights, 222 pedestrian lights and a 10 percent contingency, city officials said.
The monthly lighting bill will be paid by the Charlotte Department of Transportation as part of the public lighting agreement between the city and Duke Energy.
John Lewis, CEO of CATS, told council members during a dinner briefing that the BLE is broken into two segments – the first running from Uptown to Old Concord Road, adjacent to the existing railroad corridor, and the second beginning at Old Concord Road and running to the UNC Charlotte campus.
The goal is a “congestion-free” commute, connecting the center city, NoDa, University City and UNC Charlotte, Lewis said.
The efforts will transform the corridor with infrastructure improvements, light rail, bike lanes and sidewalks, and stimulate economic revitalization and transit-oriented development, he said.

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