Thursday, February 12, 2009

Elizabeth Avenue

Elizabeth Avenue in Charlotte is getting reconstructed. Instead of ripping it up again later for the streetcar, they are putting in the tracks now. It cost $5 million extra to do it but it's well worth it. Today they are done with the first section of the street, and the businesses are worried because the second section will affect them but they understand that once its done, they'll be better off.

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12 comments:

arcady said...

How long is the street? And how much does the reconstruction cost? It certainly seems like the incremental cost of tracks is not very high, compared to either the cost of the street reconstruction or just on a per-mile basis. Hopefully more cities will do this sort of thing. It especially makes sense for Portland, where they're considering a citywide streetcar network.

alex said...

I notice in the photos that the tracks are laid on a concrete surface. Why don't they use bricks instead? In the past, many cities used granite blocks and other similar material so that when their streetcar tracks need to be serviced or replaced, the bricks just need to be pulled out, and they could be placed back easily when the track work is completed. Concrete is more difficult to remove, because a noisy jackhammer would be needed to break them apart... and then there's the issue of discarding the broken-up chunks of concrete that is no longer reusable, unlike bricks.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

The section they are tracking is half a mile. So that would be $10M per mile. With the electric infrastructure, that should only be another million and vehicles and car barn spread out over the system should be another $4 million. So we're looking at $15 million per mile. Their estimates are $40 million per mile which seems crazy!

http://www.wcnc.com/news/topstories/stories/wcnc-020609-mrn-streetcarline.27bb3194.html

arcady said...

alex: the way it used to be done, they would build a complete track structure, with wooden ties and ballast and all, then cover the top with bricks. The concrete is a fairly shallow slab in which the rails are embedded and which holds them in place. It is generally made by an extrusion process, which is pretty efficient, especially compared to building track conventionally, then covering it with bricks or stone blocks embedded in cconcrete. If you've ever seen how a cobblestone street is actually built, there's actually a base layer of concrete, which requires just as much jackhammering. Another problem is that you need a specific (durable) kind of brick for streetcar track, and that kind isn't made in the US anymore. I believe APTA's heritage trolley website has a good discussion of some of the technical issues involved.

Adam said...

Charlotte is too big of a city for streetcars. They ought to invest in a subway.

Jay Heikes said...

I think the $40 million per mile is the cost for utility relocation, streetscape improvements, road improvements, tracks, power and the whole nine yards. Which still seems high though. Theve been trhowing the 400 million number (cost for all 10 miles) around alot lately, because for some reason McCrory thinks the city is goning to have to pay for it all by itself.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

That's the thing though. It's not like Charlotte is like all these other places around the country. the County and city are the same entity and they all work together. There are no fiefdoms per say except between departments rather than governements. What's not to say they could use road building money to build the streetcar? Seems silly not to when you have all this work that is road work that will get tacked onto the streetcar.

Dustin said...

Actually, the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County remain two separate governments, with the city retaining a city council, mayor, and city manager, and the county with a board of county commissioners and a county manager. Legally, too, they have separate jurisdictions and powers. However, there is a lot of overlap, and the two governments have combined many departments and put them under one of the jurisdictions. For example, the combined city-county schools are a county department, while the combined police department is a city department. (Though Mecklenburg County still has a separate sheriff's department.) The combined utilities department is a city responsibility; the combined library is a county responsibility. Departments generally remain separate when there is no duplication, usually because North Carolina law gives those departments' tasks to a city or to a county, not to both. So, while it can be difficult to tell the difference between the governments and which is responsible for what services, they are still two separate entities. There have been proposals over the years to consolidate the governments, but none so far have succeeded. It's always a difficult sale at the local level, often because they believe it would be a difficult sale at the state level: the North Carolina General Assembly would have to approve a consolidated charter, and many believe legislators from elsewhere in the state would be wary of consolidating so much power in one entity. (I grew up in Charlotte, in case you're wondering how I know this.)

ChiefJoJo said...

paying for it themselves. The 1/2 cent transit tax is overburdened as it is, and they have the light rail extension to the northeast plus commuter rail to the north, both higher up on the MTC priority list. The city has paid for a ED & LU study that would examine how they could use MSDs &/o TIF to fund a portion of the line's cost outside the transit tax. This will, of course, prove more problematic with the real estate market free-fall, but at least they are looking to build it sooner than 10-15 years off.

anon said...

"Direct fixation" track means that when there's a repair problem with the *track* they can pretty much take the track out and fix it back in place. When there's a repair problem with the *concrete*, it's a big mess, of course. But properly maintained concrete is actually extremely durable; many concrete structures survive from the Roman Empire.

anon said...

To clarify, taking the track out and replacing it with 'direct fixation' in concrete does require cutting out and replacing sections of concrete. As long as it's not for high-speed operation, it's not that bad; concrete can be cut and patched in a fairly reasonable manner, as anyone who's seen a sidewalk repair knows. General concrete deterioration generally means the whole structure needs to be replaced along a very long area, however.

Jay Heikes said...

Whether or not the City and County are the same entity or not is not the issue. The problem is that the City the County and the Observer are looking at this from the total cost. All of the improvements will cost the City 400 million (It would be the city paying since Beattie's Ford, Trade, Elizabeth, Hawthorne, and Central are entirely within the City- the county would only pay if the road is outisde a town's or Charlotte's jurisdiction). However what they are not saying is that the project would probably cost 250-300 million without the streetcar for utility relocation, streetscape improvements, repaving, etc... Also the State and FTA should chip in, hopefully.