Contractors sue Charlotte over payment after delays in Hawthorne Lane bridge project

The Hawthorne Lane bridge is being rebuilt as part of the $150 million Gold Line streetcar extension project. The bridge closed in mid-2017 for what was supposed to less than two years of work, but remains closed to cars to date due to delays.

Charlotte repeatedly blamed its contractor for Hawthorne Lane Bridge’s extensive construction delays. The city may have gone too far.

Johnson Brothers Corporation is suing the city for $115 million. It breached its contract, misrepresented the project and provided unjust enrichment, according to the lawsuit. The contractor’s parent company, Southland Holdings, said the city refused pay the general contractor more than $100 million in “equitable adjustments” pertaining to the second phase of the Lynx Gold Line streetcar project.

WCNC first reported the lawsuit Monday.

The 2.5 mile Gold Line addition, which was supposed to cost $89 million and included track, asphalt and traffic signal installations, took about three years to complete and spanned over the Hawthorne Lane Bridge — a newfound staple spot to photograph Charlotte’s skyline. Initially, the city estimated the project would be complete in less than two years.

The company’s plans, according to the lawsuit, detailed expected road closures and traffic delays based off the city’s original plans. But after Charlotte gave contractors the go-ahead to begin the project, it started changing things, according to the lawsuit.

From the lawsuit, the company claims:

  • The city refused to certify the project’s completion after contractors completed original construction plans, as well as more than 1,000 additional items the city added in 2021 and 2022.

  • It mandated that contractors maintained at least one lane of traffic in each direction throughout its construction areas, which was not originally planned.

  • It changed the times workers could be on the sites, sometimes limiting them to nights or weekends or halting construction during sporting events.

  • It granted at least 15 other contractors access to its sites and failed to foster coordination among the different companies.

Each obstacle demanded more excavation, materials, underground construction and traffic shifts, according to the lawsuit.

Under contract, the lawsuit says, Charlotte is obligated to give time extensions and additional compensation to the contractor and pay workers within 45 days of completion. Because the city began using the project by August 30, 2021, the lawsuit says, it now owes the contractor interest on its unpaid invoices — 1% per month.

The city of Charlotte, Johnson Brothers Corporation and Southland Holdings could not be reached for comment before publication late Tuesday morning.