Planners asked residents this week for help in making a few decisions about a planned 17-mile light rail-line from UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill to Duke University and downtown Durham.
Orange and Durham county residents are contributing a share of local sales taxes to beef up bus service and plan for the light-rail line. But it can’t be built unless state and federal agencies agree to pay most of the cost, estimated at $1.34 billion in 2012 dollars – and those decisions are several years away.
Most of the route has been laid out, along with locations for most of the 17 train stations. The electric-powered light-rail trains would run on new tracks from UNC, heading east along N.C. 54, north near Interstate 40 to U.S. 15-501, then east into downtown Durham, ending at Alston Avenue near N.C. Central University.
But Triangle Transit officials are relying on feedback from residents of both counties to help settle some lingering questions:
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• Whether to send the trains through the Meadowmont neighborhood near the Orange-Durham county line, or along N.C. 54. Meadowmont was designed to incorporate a future rail line, but some residents want to keep the trains out.
• Where to cross New Hope Creek. Environmentalists criticized an early plan that would run through wetlands. A less invasive path along U.S. 15-501 has drawn objection from businesses.
• Whether to put a station in front of the VA Hospital and the Duke Hospital Eye Center on Erwin Road, or move it a few blocks east to Trent Drive.
• Where to locate a 16- to 20-acre rail operation and maintenance center.
• And whether to build the light-rail line.
Claudia Markey, who retired to Durham with her husband a few weeks ago, likes the prospect of a light-rail stop at the Patterson Place shopping center off U.S. 15-501, not far from her townhouse apartment.
“We’re already thinking about taking the train downtown to see a show at DPAC,” said Markey, 63. “The thing is, you never want it in your backyard – but you want it close enough to use it.”
Hundreds of residents turned out for four meetings this week in Durham and Chapel Hill. Triangle Transit officials will use the comments they received to draft a report this spring for federal transit officials. Residents who want to comment on the plan should do it soon, transit officials said.
Project documents, maps and comment forms are online at ourtransitfuture.com.