GoTriangle is continuing to work with local and state officials to make the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project a reality. The organization hosted a tour Monday of the project corridor for congressmen David Price and G.K. Butterfield, along with other local officials. The corridor included the added stop at North Carolina Central University.
Butterfield said making the light rail connector a reality will help make traveling and commuting easier for all residents of Durham and Orange counties.
“The individuals who are leading this effort are transportation professionals who understand the importance of light rail and what it will do for families and workers and the business community and what it will do for the economy of this region,” he said.
There has been speculation about funding for the connector for months. The project, with the added stop, is set to cost nearly $2.5 billion. Originally, 50 percent of the money was set to come from the federal government, 25 percent was to come from a local sales tax and the remaining 25 percent was to come from the state.
However, in the 2016 state budget amendment, it was included that the state would instead pay up to 10 percent of the total light rail cost.
Local government bodies submitted letters in December stating that they would search for new options of payment to make up the difference that didn’t include imposing more of a sales tax on residents.
Congressmen David Price said that as long as everyone at the local and state level continues to do their part, collectively they could make the light rail happen.
“It’s an ambitious project but the commitment of our local citizens has been demonstrated,” he said. “We have good cooperation from our town and our county governments, city governments. It’s going to be city governments and I think we are on a good positive path to develop this, and to enhance the quality of life in our region.”
However, he said the federal government’s cooperation is also important. With a new administration in office, it’s unclear whether the Federal Transit Admission will still be able to contribute 50 percent of the total cost. Price is a ranking member of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and says he will do everything he can to advocate for FTA funding.
“The federal government’s participation is essential to this,” Price said. “We are going to advocate for it very strongly but in the meantime, we understand that the best case we can make for this is the kind of thing we’ve seen this morning: evidence of good planning, of a sound concept, well-executed, with citizens buying in with the local revenue, and our local governments and local business communities cooperating fully.”
Butterfield said he will also advocate for the plan to continue moving forward, because it’s important that everyone in Durham and Orange counties has access to transportation.
“In the 21st century, we must find creative ways of moving our workers and the population from different points within a region,” he said. “Our interstate highways and our freeways have now become crowded and they’re very expensive to maintain. But a light rail is the choice of transportation for the future.”
GoTriangle officials said they are expecting a decision from federal officials regarding the latest application later this month.