The Orange County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the addition of a station for the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project at Blackwell and Mangum Streets in Downtown Durham.
The new light rail station will be located along Pettigrew Street near Durham Performing Arts Center, the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and American Tobacco campus.
According to Go Triangle’s government affairs manager Matthew Clark, all expected expenses for the project are contained within the project budget, and any changes will have to be brought before the boards for Orange County, Durham County, the Durham Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization and Go Triangle for approval.
“During the engineering phase of the project, we iron out the details of design such that we move from 30 percent of design to near 100 percent design so that we’re ready for the next phase which is construction. As we iron out those details, some will cost money and some will save money. All are contained within the budget for the capital cost of the project, which is set upon entry into engineering at around $2.47 billion,” said Clark. The total cost of the project, including financing, comes in at an estimated $3.3 billion.
According to Clark, adding the station was previously not possible due to the proposed use of three-car platforms that require the tracks to widen upon reaching the station.
The widening of the tracks would have affected the historic building the Blackwell Factory, which Clark referred to as the Old Bull Building.
“Our board has approved a move from three-car to two-car platforms, which, by the way, saves us $22 million. And that allows the tracks to widen a little bit later and miss the Old Bull Building so that there’s no impact to that historic property,” said Clark.
At the meeting, Clark also went over the additional savings and projected expenses for the project. “There was a Patterson Place change that cost about $4 million, Gateway is roughly $8 million, there was a change at University Drive that I believe saved about $9 million and then there’s the addition of the Blackwell Mangum station which adds about $2.5 million.”
Orange County Commissioner Earl McKee, who has opposed the project throughout the process, says he applauds the addition of the stops that are providing access to critical areas.
“This additional station for me is beneficial for service,” said McKee. “It’s a recognition that service to a downtown urban area is critical, outside of the service to the two universities. This downtown service is a major factor of what, if this comes to fruition, will make it work.”
The Durham Board of Commissioners, the Metropolitan Planning Organization and Go Triangle boards all joined Orange County in voting last week to approve the new station.