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Final Environmental Impact Statement/Record of Decision for
the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project
Rapid growth in the Triangle requires an affordable, comprehensive, integrated regional transportation plan
In 2011-2012, voters in Durham and Orange County approved a ½ cent sales tax increase to fund regional transportation needed for the growing Triangle Region. The tax was to provide partial funding for a plan developed by Triangle Transit (TTA – and now “GoTriangle”) to increase bus service, and provide light rail transit (LRT) connecting UNC and Duke.
The Durham 2011 municipal election had a mere 10.5% of the city electorate voting for the tax referendum and excluded unincorporated Durham County residents. With the potential placement of the industrial ROMF, in and around their homes, this unfair and calculating undemocratic maneuver silences the voices of those most directly impacted by this project.The estimated $1.6 Billion (DEIS) project construction “assumes 50% Federal funding, 25% local and 25% state” according to GoTriangle. The 25% local funding is comprised of a 0.5% sales tax, $10 annual vehicle registration fee and 5% tax surcharge on car rentals.
Wake County’s decision changes everything
Last year, the situation changed when Wake County decided to not pursue GoTriangle’s plan and abandoned plans for LRT. Instead, Wake is exploring Bus Rapid Transit and/or Rail Rapid Transit (diesel cars running on existing rail lines) deliver county-wide transportation in a flexible, cost-effective manner.
During the same period, GoTriangle has spent approximately $40 million on LRT studies and has provided a small increase in bus service in Orange and Durham Counties. The LRT planning process has been fraught with issues ranging from route problems to degrading assumptions about speed, capacity, and value to the community. The Durham-Orange LRT does not provide service to Wake County, the largest and fastest growing segment of the Triangle.
Smart Transit Future is an alliance of community and civic groups throughout the Triangle that are asking Orange and Durham leaders to reconsider the DOLRT plan and pursue alternatives. We believe that the Durham-Orange, LRT should be put on hold, in order to work more closely with Wake County on alternatives that connect the entire Triangle. At the same time, funds in the short term can be redirected to improve bus transportation in Orange and Durham.
Durham-Orange LRT is beset with circuitous route, safety concerns, and funding gaps
In addition to Wake County’s exit from the plan, unexpected challenges are facing the Durham-Orange 17 mile LRT project including:
- Routes and locations of facilities have changed and now negatively impact vulnerable seniors, schools, and residential communities;
- The expected capacity, speed and convenience has degraded. Route travel time has degraded to 42-44 minutes (+10 minutes waiting at each terminus) from an original estimate of 34 minutes, and the existing bus routes used for comparison were grossly distorted (link to page showing comparison).
- DOLRT will make it difficult for the rapidly growing Triangle Region to respond to changes due to telecommuting, decentralization of UNC and Duke facilities, and emerging automated vehicle (AV) technologies
- DOLRT costs are escalating, and under new NC State budget, the project will be short $400 million from the state. Federal funding is even more uncertain.
The original plan overlooked other important factors, including:
- It does not serve the exploding growth centers including Chatham Park, NC Commerce Center, and the redevelopment of RTP.
- Durham and Orange County need more funds to modernize bus fleets and add routes, and implement BRT which is much more cost effective.
- The DOLRT relies on at 42 unsafe at-grade crossings along the 17 mile route.
Bus Rapid Transit, Rail Rapid Transit and emerging technologies offer a more flexible and cost-effective platform for Triangle-wide transportation.
LRT is expensive, inflexible technology that will not effectively serve the growing Triangle Region. Federal, state and local dollars would be better spent on bus and bus rapid transit with dedicated guideways through dense corridors, and the reuse of existing rail lines with rail rapid transit.
With the final recommendations unveiled by GoTriangle. many communities are now actively seeking to stop this project. Upon deeper investigation, many of the GoTriangle planning assumptions are either highly questionable or so erroneous that making an informed decision on the options is impossible, We urge local, county, state and Federal decision-makers to require an independent review by external parties that have no role in the development of the PLAN and do not stand to benefit from decisions regarding the PLAN.
We the undersigned urge you to REJECT the current DO-Line plan.