The long awaited $1.4 Billion light rail transit line project that will span Chapel Hill and Durham is finally getting underway. But it could be another decade before the first rail is laid.
That’s what came out of the first standing room only public hearing with officials of Orange and Durham Counties on the proposed 17 mile transit system. The huge undertaking promises to ease congestion on the North Carolina 54/I-40 traffic corridor.
Currently on the drawing board are two possible routes dubbed C1 and C2. The C1 alignment would cut a swath through the heart of the upscale Meadowmont community.
That route has drawn the wrath of some Meadowmont residents who claim it would pose safety hazards, create noise and cause severe damage to the pristine nearby wetlands which is a habitat for rare birds and wildlife.
More costly than C1 by $30 Million, Route C2, a so-called preferred route, would avoid Meadowmont by hugging Route 54, then crossing over to follow a track roughly parallel to Farrington Road and Interstate 40. But environmentals want the line to parallel U.S. 15-501 then veer south to follow Interstate 40 and N.C. 54 to Chapel Hill. That would protect New Hope Creek and the wetlands near Jordan Lake.
So obviously there is much disagreement about the alignment, and it’s a long way from being settled. Environmental studies must be undertaken and a request for scarce federal funding for the project still needs to be submitted and approved.
In the distant future and well beyond my lifetime, hopefully a network of light rail lines will connect all of North Carolina’s cities and towns, and ultimately wean us from our addiction to oil. We can dream, can’t we?