Orange County Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to pay for a portion of a study into a possible regional commuter rail running along North Carolina railroad tracks that could possibly extend from Johnston and Wake Counties through Durham and into Orange and Alamance counties.
“This study is going to allow us to learn what we need to know to make a commitment, in a year or two, to the project or not,” Commissioner Mark Marcoplos said. Marcoplos is the commissioners’ representative on the GoTriangle Board of Trustees.
Additionally, he said a commuter rail could be one piece of Orange County’s larger transportation planning following the end of the Durham – Orange Light Rail Transit Project. But the county won’t know unless they help fund this study, which will look at key metrics like possible ridership and costs and gather public input.
“We’re going to learn about ridership. What I’ve heard is that the ridership is not a given,” he said on Tuesday evening at the commissioner’s meeting. “I think it’s a good move. We need to learn what we can about it because it could potentially be a great project, and if we’re going to turn it down we ought to know why.”
A commuter rail connecting Durham and Wake counties is already in the transit plans for those respective counties. This study would look at the feasibility of extending that rail line east to Alamance and west to Johnston County.
The study’s total cost is $850,000 and will be shared among the participating counties and North Carolina Railroads. Orange County agreed to pay $75,000 from dedicated transit revenues, officials said. The study is expected to be finished by the end of this year.