The general contractor on a project to extend Charlotte, N.C.’s CityLYNX Gold Line streetcar has filed a breach of contract lawsuit, claiming the city owes it and its subcontractors more than $115 million. The city has filed counterclaims against the contractor, saying it never completed punch list items.

The contractor, Johnson Bros. Corp. of Grapevine, Texas, filed the suit earlier this year in a state court in Mecklenburg County. On July 20, a judge sent the case to North Carolina Business Court, which deals with complex commercial law issues. 

Charlotte officials awarded the contract to Johnson Bros. in 2016 after the contractor submitted an $89.6-million bid for the work. The project involved extending an existing streetcar line by 2.5 miles and adding 11 stops. The scope of work included replacement of a bridge over US-74 plus track work, installation of an overhead catenary system and other infrastructure. 

In its suit, Johnson Bros. alleges the city caused delays in several ways. The traffic control plans it required deviated from what was in the contract, forcing the contractor to keep at least one lane open for through traffic in each direction in most work segments. That caused “major changes” to the scope of work, according to the complaint, such as reducing workers’ freedom of movement and material laydown areas and forcing the company to perform inefficient piecemeal construction. 

The city also imposed restrictions limiting work in some areas to nights and weekends, minus special schedules for sports and other events, according to the complaint. Johnson Bros. also says the city permitted at least 15 other contractors into its active work zones, but did not coordinate to ensure their work did not interfere with the CityLYNX project. 

Additionally, Johnson Bros. alleges in its suit that the city’s original plans were “inaccurate, deficient and inadequate in numerous ways that required sweeping design changes and plan revisions throughout the project.” About 70% of the water lines were rerouted and resized. Storm drain segments were also revised, foundations for the overhead electrical system were relocated and retaining walls were redesigned. The contractor also faced beam set elevation and concrete deck elevation issues on the bridge replacement. 

The streetcar line opened in August 2021, but Johnson Bros. says the city continued updating its punch list into the next year, adding more than 1,000 items even as it withheld payment. 

The city denied Johnson Bros.’ allegations and filed a counterclaim accusing the company of breach of contract. The city says the contractor owes it millions of dollars because of the delays and incomplete punch list items.

Johnson Bros. “frequently did poor work,” the city alleged in its response. It says the contractor had an inadequate workforce to complete the work on time, had to tear out and rebuild its work and failed to update schedules. 

Neither attorneys for Johnson Bros. nor the city immediately replied to inquiries about the case.

Johnson Bros. is a subsidiary of Southland Holdings, which ranks No. 97 on ENR’s 2023 Top 400 Contractors list. 

Charlotte officials awarded a $4.3-million design contract last year to AECOM Technical Services for the next Gold Line expansion project, city records show.