Wake County’s proposed transportation plan would link Raleigh-Durham International Airport to the surrounding region by public transit, potentially putting Morrisville in the path of people traveling to and from the area.
Tim Maloney, Wake County’s director of planning and development, outlined the plan during a Feb. 23 presentation to the Morrisville Town Council. He and others from his office have been discussing it with town governments around Wake County.
“If I wanted to take the train to the airport, I would park my car in Raleigh, get on the train to a stop in Morrisville, and get on a connector bus that would connect me from the Morrisville station to the airport,” Maloney said.
But funding for the project hinges on the passage of a half-cent sales tax in November, and some council members asked whether it could pass without support from Wake County residents who live beyond the scope of the plan’s service.
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“Not all the towns are getting as much access as towns like Morrisville,” said Councilman Satish Garimella said. “So how are you going to sell the half-cent sales tax to them?”
According to the proposal, a commuter rail line would run 37 miles from Clayton to West Durham, which could include a stop in Morrisville for bus transfers to the airport’s terminals.
If approved, the train service could begin in roughly eight to 10 years, according to the plan. This aspect would bring the Raleigh-Durham area into line with some of the country’s larger metropolitan areas, most of which provide, or have plans to provide, rail access to their airports.
Councilwoman Liz Johnson said the town already has identified land near the intersection of N.C. 54 and McCrimmon Parkway as a likely site for Morrisville’s transit station.
Funding from the sales tax would account for almost $1 billion of the project’s $2.4 billion price tag over its first decade, alongside a new vehicle registration fee and federal funds.
Putting the tax on the ballot relies on the plan being adopted by Wake commissioners in late spring or early summer.
Johnson said it’s likely commissioners will agree to the plan without much delay.
“The last group (of commissioners) that were voted in, they ran on this issue,” she said. “I’m confident they’ll approve it.”
Increased bus service is the proposal’s other selling point. Maloney showed the council maps that have Morrisville almost completely “covered” under the new plan, which the county defines as areas where residents are no farther than three-fourths of a mile from a bus or rail stop.
As Maloney has in previous presentations, he emphasized the plan’s goal of attracting “choice riders,” or those who might choose to use public transit for a reason besides necessity.
In response to Garimella’s question, he suggested the economics of better transit would benefit the broader region, attracting companies and making business easier to conduct.
He also discussed a matching program that could spur smaller towns in Wake County to develop their own local transit systems. Maloney used the example of a circular route running between Holly Springs and Fuquay-Varina to illustrate a project that could receive a 50 percent match in funds from the county.
Johnson is a member of the Wake County Transit Advisory Committee and has provided input to the plan’s architects. She said those who commute to Raleigh from rural areas or surrounding counties could benefit indirectly from the project.
“Not everyone is going to use transit,” she said. “But for those that can or want to, they’ll get off the road. The potential is there for more capacity on the road network because the transit option is out there for others.”
Gargan: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @hgargan