News | November 30, 2016

SELC urges continued backing of N.C. light rail at key juncture

Transit advocates are looking for a show of public support Monday, when the Durham-Chapel Hill light rail project hits an early milestone. At 7 p.m. Monday, the Orange County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on its ongoing support for the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit plan. When complete, the light rail line will provide a much-needed transportation connection along the heavily-travelled route between Durham and Chapel Hill.

SELC will be at Monday’s meeting to encourage commissioners to keep support in place for this important, regional public transit investment. Members of the public are encouraged to attend the meeting, located at the Whitted Building Meeting Room, 300 W. Tryon Street, Hillsborough, and share why they support establishing the light rail.

In order to ensure the project remains eligible for federal funding, the regional transit provider, GoTriangle, needs assurances from both Orange and Durham counties that they are willing to explore additional funding options for the project. The agency has been forced to seek additional help from the counties because the North Carolina legislature recently capped state funding for the project at 10 percent of the total project cost, though previously the state had planned to cover around 25 percent.

GoTriangle is requesting a non-binding letter from each county stating they will continue to work with the agency to locate additional funding sources for the project. These letters do not obligate the counties to any specific financial commitment.

Last night, the Durham Joint City-County Committee unanimously voted to continue supporting the project by agreeing to take GoTriangle’s request to the city and county boards of commissioners later this month.

The Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project is at a key juncture as it begins to progress through the engineering and design phases. The project represents an exciting opportunity for North Carolina’s Research Triangle to incorporate reliable, environmentally-friendly public transit into the regional transportation network. SELC has been a strong proponent of this project because of its potential to encourage compact, smart land use in the Durham-Orange corridor, as opposed to car-oriented, sprawling land use that disturbs natural areas and increases local air pollution.

Read more about SELC’s support for this innovative light rail project here.