Just as the Durham – Orange Light Rail Transit project was nearing funding deadlines that could have eventually brought the long-discussed plan to fruition, it now appears a fatal blow may have been delivered to the project.

Duke University said Wednesday it will not sign a cooperative agreement with the regional transit authority GoTriangle to allow for the project to move forward on some Duke property and near Duke hospital on Erwin Road.

GoTriangle announced the Duke decision in a press release on Wednesday evening.

“Early Wednesday GoTriangle received a letter from Duke University stating that it will not sign a cooperative agreement needed for the light-rail project.

For more than a decade, and more intensely over the past year, GoTriangle and local elected officials have worked closely with the university to address concerns so Duke’s action today is especially disappointing. This is a major setback for the Durham and Orange county communities and the entire Triangle region. GoTriangle will work with the elected officials in Durham and Orange counties and the Federal Transit Administration to assess all available options and decide upon a course of action.

Additionally, GoTriangle received a letter from the state-owned North Carolina Railroad toward the end of the Board of Trustees’ regular monthly meeting today. We will be carefully reviewing the letter and assessing potential impacts on the project.​”

You can read the letter from Duke here.

The decision from Duke comes after a report from GoTriangle, detailed in the News & Observer, that chronicled years worth of discussions between the transit organization and private university.

A Durham City Councilmember suggested in an op-ed on Wednesday that eminent domain could be used to allow the project to move forward.

It is unclear what steps can or will be taken to see if the project is viable to move forward in some capacity.