Like countless other Charlotte developments these days, the construction of the bridge connecting South End to Uptown is delayed again.
The bridge is now expected to be completed in 2027 — nearly five years later than project organizers had originally planned.
Why it matters: The bridge is years in the making, and it aims to solve a logistical headache for pedestrians by safely connecting the two neighborhoods. Currently, the 3.5-mile rail trail running from South End into Uptown comes to an awkward end right before the highway.
Flashback: In a splashy announcement in 2019, private and public partners gathered to announce plans for a highly-anticipated pedestrian and bike bridge that will eventually cross over Interstate 277.
- At the time, the goal was to begin construction in 2021, and open by the end of 2022.
- In late 2021, however, project organizers revised the timeline of the project. Construction was to have begun in spring 2023, with a completion date of 2025.
- The reason for the delay: The team realized that building the bridge directly adjacent to the light rail would be more costly and take longer. It’ll now run separately but nearly parallel to the light rail.
The latest timeline: The bid process will begin by the end of this year for construction and fabrication, according to Michael Smith, president and CEO of Center City Partners. Construction will begin in the middle of 2024, and should be complete in 2027.
- Smith cites a number of reasons behind the delay, including rising costs, supply chain interruptions, the complexity of operating a public/private partnership, and the layers of approvals needed to cross a federally funded roadway.
- But, he adds, there’s been “good commitment from the city to keep this as a priority.”
“Once you decide something is needed and you get it funded and you start to see incredible design potential, everyone wants it tomorrow,” Smith says.
Zoom out: The bridge aims to close a gap in Charlotte’s two central business districts — South End and Uptown. South End has grown rapidly as an employment hub in recent years with major employers relocating there, drawn by the area’s walkability, its restaurants and bars, its thousands of apartments and its entertainment.
- The bridge, Smith adds, is vital for a city that supports non-car modes of transit, including cycling.
Funding: The $11.5 million bridge is a public/private partnership between the N.C. Department of Transportation, Mecklenburg County, the city of Charlotte and U.S. Bank. The Minneapolis-based bank entered the Charlotte market in 2019 — this project aims to be one way to drum up its brand awareness, and to immerse itself in the community.
“We’re going to have a bridge that Charlotte’s going to be really proud of,” Smith says.
Check out the proposed potential lighting schemes for the bridge. Renderings courtesy of Depeña Studios.