Thursday, August 14, 2014

Two-thirds of Research Triangle in on LRT

Written by 
Two-thirds of Research Triangle in on LRT Triangle Transit

Light rail transit plans got the backing of officials in Durham and Orange counties, N.C., on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, setting the stage for a concerted effort to secure federal funding for a regional LRT system covering the central core of the Tar Heel State's famed Research Triangle (officially the Raleigh–Durham–Chapel Hill Combined Statistical Area).

Still missing from the equation so far, however, is a third county, Wake, which includes the state capital, Raleigh; it has yet to commit to growing LRT.

Durham and Orange counties have approved measures to bolster chances of state funding support for LRT linking Durham and Chapel Hill, N.C. the plan has express public support from elected officials and state Department of Transportation division engineers. Durham and Orange counties already collect a half-cent sales tax intended to provide local funds for the project.

"It looks like there was great collaboration with the division engineers," Durham County Commissioner Ellen Reckhow, who chairs the cross-county Transportation Advisory Committee, told local media. "We were able to work together and get a reasonably good outcome."

But a funding cap enacted by state legislators means only $135 million in state assistance can be directed toward the rail plans during the next 10 years, short of the $455 million in state matching funds anticipated as necessary to advanced the $1.8 billion project.

Last February the Federal Transit Administration approved conceptual planning of an LRT starter line, initially linking East Durham and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Numerous others colleges and universities located in the Triangle – a secondary source of the region's nomenclature -- would be eventually linked by LRT as a rail system grew to cover more of the area.