Duke University is last piece in regional light rail puzzle

A rendering of one section of the light rail project planned connecting Durham to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (© GoTriangle)

Duke University is the lone holdout at a critical juncture for the long-planned and widely supported Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project. GoTriangle officials have until February 28 to secure eleven critical cooperative agreements in order to stay on track to receive $1.23 billion in funding to the Federal Transit Administration. This deadline is key because of requirements set last session by the North Carolina General Assembly regarding state funds for the project. If the deadline is not met, the project cannot move forward and all of the environmental and social equity benefits associated with it will be lost.

Duke University is the only entity left that has not signed the cooperative agreement, citing concerns about how the project will affect its medical and research facilities on Erwin Road. GoTriangle has diligently worked to satisfy Duke’s concerns, shifting the light-rail track alignment and elevating the track. Despite GoTriangle’s efforts, Duke has not yet agreed to sign the cooperative agreement.

Our community has worked for years to make the Durham-Orange Light Rail a reality. It would be devastating if Duke University’s delay led to the project’s failure”

—Senior Attorney Kym Hunter

SELC has long been a strong supporter of the proposed light rail line, which will provide an environmentally friendly alternative to car travel along the busy corridor between Durham and Chapel Hill. In addition to the direct benefits of taking cars off the road, fixed-guideway systems like light rail help to drive dense, mixed-use development around stations. As the Triangle region continues to attract more people, it becomes even more important to guide growth toward already developed parcels. This planning avoids sprawling land use known to increase local air pollution and water pollution while disturbing natural areas. 

The light rail will also create greater access to job centers throughout Orange and Durham counties. It connects three major universities and two large hospitals – all of which are leading employers in the region. The light rail will serve a large number of households and a variety of neighborhoods, connecting low-income, elderly, and disabled individuals to necessary resources.

On Friday, North Carolina’s Environmental community, led by SELC, sent a letter to Duke University President Price asking that the University sign the agreement and ask the project to move forward. 

“Our community has worked for years to make the Durham-Orange Light Rail a reality. It would be devastating if Duke University’s delay led to the project’s failure,” said SELC Senior Attorney Kym Hunter. “Projects like the light rail are essentially for combatting climate change – an ever present threat to our state as we witnessed up close last year. We hope that Duke University can find a way to be part of this important solution.”


To take action, email Duke University President Vincent Price at president@duke.edu or Vice President Tallman Trask at T3@duke.edu and express your support for the light rail project as well as your request that the university sign the cooperative agreement with GoTriangle before the Feb. 28 deadline. 

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