CHAPEL HILL — Orange County voters approved a half-cent sales tax Tuesday to help pay the local share of a $1.4 billion plan for better bus service and a light-rail route connecting Chapel Hill and Durham, according to unofficial results.
The sales tax equals 5 cents on a $10 purchase but will not apply to gas, food, medicine, health care or housing costs.
David King, Triangle Transit general manager, said Orange County has joined Durham County in taking “a positive step to fund expanded transit.” Wake County has not finalized its part of the regional plan and did not hold a sales tax referendum this year.
“By a substantial majority in both Durham and Orange counties, people have decided to invest local money to provide more transit options for our growing region,” King said.
The transit plan – and whether the county should collect the sales tax to support it – has generated debate countywide. Supporters said the plan will help unclog roads, promote denser development and create economic opportunities. Opponents said the plan will do little for rural residents, those with disabilities and the elderly.
Orange and Durham counties each will pay for their share of the 17.3-mile light-rail line, and split the cost of other services. Orange County will pay 25 percent of its $661.1 million cost with sales tax revenues, another $10 vehicle registration fee and rental car fees. State and federal money will pay the rest.
Those changes will include more local and regional bus service, create a Mebane-Hillsborough-Durham express bus and help pay for a long-planned Hillsborough Amtrak station.