After the North Carolina Republican legislators passed a budget that contained a provision which negatively impacts plans for the Durham-Orange Light Rail project, UNC officials said the university is taking a broader approach for the future of transportation in its master planning process.

“We are planning for mass transportation,” Chancellor Carol Folt said at last week’s Board of Trustees meeting. “We know that’s part of it; we already do it. So, the way we’re designing is flexible, but I continue to feel very strongly that we can do anything we can to help the state build out those capacities because people need to get back and forth in ways that are sustainable and fast.”

Several planned stations for the proposed light rail line would be on UNC-owned property. During a presentation of the university’s draft master plan on Thursday, officials said it was important to continue the planning process because this same planned corridor could potentially be used for other mass transit, including the possibility of Bus Rapid Transit, if the light rail project is unable to move forward.

The budget provision in question requires the light rail project to obtain federal funding before the state could allocate money, which presents an issue because the federal government requires non-federal dollars to be secured before it provides funding.

While Folt is remaining open-minded about what the transportation could look like at UNC in the future, she said she realizes the impact light rail could have on the area.

“Personally, I think light rail is a really exciting thing,” said Folt. “I think great cities, today and tomorrow, are developing out light rail. I don’t think anyone can really say that that isn’t a part of modernizing.”

While no amendments were allowed on the budget, some officials remain optimistic that a technical corrections bill could save the light rail project.

Photo via UNC