Charlotte wants to build a $16.7 million, 1,000 foot-long pedestrian bridge over the sprawling Independence Boulevard interchange with the John Belk Freeway, a project that would connect two segments of the greenway and become an iconic symbol for the city.
The city and Mecklenburg County are building the Cross Charlotte Trail, a 30-mile greenway from Pineville to the Cabarrus County line. Much of the walking and bike trail exists today, but Independence Boulevard currently severs the greenway.
The bridge would create a near seamless path along Little Sugar Creek from Woodlawn Road to Parkwood Avenue north of Belmont.
The city hasn’t settled on a design yet, but it wants something iconic. The tentative plan also calls for a viewing platform in the middle of the bridge, in between the on-ramps for the interchange. The platform would give pedestrians and bicyclists a view of uptown.
“We expect a pretty significant public engagement to pick the design,” said Vivian Coleman of the Charlotte Department of Transportation. “That’s what we’re leaning towards – a bridge that’s iconic and serves as a destination. We expect that to be a big destination.”
The city would build a tunnel under Seventh Street for the greenway so people could avoid crossing that street.
City Council is scheduled to vote Monday on whether to apply for a federal grant to help pay for the bridge.
The city estimates design and planning would cost $1.9 million. Construction on the bridge, as well as greenway approaches, would cost $12.5 million. The project’s contingency would be $2.3 million.
The DOT grant program, known as a TIGER grant, could cover 80 percent of construction costs.
The city applied for the grant last year, but was passed over. Coleman said the bridge scored high, but the state had already received its share of grant money.
If Charlotte doesn’t receive the grant, the backup plan is to use the Central Avenue bridge over U.S. 74 to connect the two greenway segments.
The city also wants to build a new light-rail line – the Silver Line – along U.S. 74. The Charlotte Area Transit System’s plan is to build a light-rail line from the airport to Matthews, through uptown.
To accommodate the Gold Line streetcar, the city is also demolishing and rebuilding the Hawthorne Lane bridge over U.S. 74, which is about a mile southeast of the Central Avenue bridge. The old bridge wasn’t strong enough to handle the weights of cars and a streetcar.