The city of Charlotte is getting ready to solve a problem that’s frustrated pedestrians for years: How to safely and easily cross over Interstate 277 from the rail trail in South End into Uptown.
The city has secured the remaining funds needed for an $11.5 million pedestrian and bike bridge, a public-private effort funded by in part by the N.C. Department of Transportation, Mecklenburg County and the city of Charlotte.
Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank will contribute $1 million toward the project, Charlotte Center City Partners announced in a press conference Wednesday.
Design work on the much-anticipated pedestrian and bike bridge is set to begin this fall, according to Charlotte Center City Partners.
The city has selected the Charlotte office of engineering firm Thomas & Hutton to consult on the project. Working on the bridge’s design will be structural engineering firm SBP, which has designed projects such as 1 World Trade Center in New York.
After that, construction on the pedestrian bridge expected to begin in summer 2021, and the bridge should open by the end of 2022.
The project is intended to solve an awkward gap: The 3.5-mile rail trail running from South End into Uptown currently comes to an abrupt end right near Spectrum News. Pedestrians and bikers have to climb up a flight of stairs, walk along a sidewalk on Morehead and cross a bridge over I-277 to get into Uptown.
The city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County are each contributing $3.1 million for the project. The N.C. Department of Transportation is pitching in $3.3 million.
Charlotte City Council approved the city’s portion of the funding this summer, WFAE and others reported.
Along with its $1 million contribution, U.S. Bank will also make “an additional financial commitment” to “animate” the rail trail, including through maintenance and programming, Charlotte Center City Partners said.
“Bridging the gap between Uptown and South End will provide additional connectivity for residents, workers and guests, while further knitting together two of our great urban neighborhoods,” Michael Smith, president and CEO of Charlotte Center City Partners, said in a statement.
As a way to save money, the city cut the pedestrian bridge that was supposed to connect South End to Uptown from the Blue Line’s plans before it opened in 2007, The Charlotte Observer reported last year.
Zoom out: U.S. Bank’s announcement comes months after the bank announced plans to expand its retail presence in Charlotte. Its first local branch is slated to open in October at 201 S. Tryon, in the space formerly occupied by Dean & Deluca.
U.S. Bank currently employs about 800 people in Charlotte, with plans to expand that number as it opens more branches in the region.
Tim Welsh, U.S. Bank’s vice chairman and head of consumer and business banking, told the Agenda sponsoring the pedestrian bridge jibes with the bank’s mission of bringing people together.
“When we saw this opportunity of literally bringing the community together, you couldn’t have a better symbolism (for our brand),” Welsh said.
“It is just so consistent with our mission and sense of purpose and how we like to be involved in our communities.”