Duke University’s president expressed continuing support for the $1.87 billion Durham-Orange Light Rail Project in a letter Friday afternoon to GoTriangle.
The letter to GoTriangle general manager Jeff Mann followed up to a Nov. 23 letter from Gene Washington, chancellor for health affairs and CEO of the Duke University Health System.
Washington had written that the health system could not support the current route past Duke’s hospitals on Erwin Road because of longstanding concerns about patient and emergency access and safety.
But on Friday, Duke President Richard Brodhead said Duke officials will “encourage Orange County and Durham County to join us in expressing support for the project.”
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“On behalf of Duke University and Duke University Health System, I’d like to reaffirm our support for the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project,” Brodhead said. “While Dr. Washington’s letter highlights areas that still need work, particularly the alignment of the route of the project near Duke Hospital, we look forward to continuing discussions with Go Triangle.”
The 17-mile project would connect UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill with Duke and N.C. Central universities in Durham. GoTriangle recently brought a $254 million funding gap to the attention of Orange County and Durham County commissioners. The gap is caused in part by the state’s decision to cap state funding to 10 percent of project costs, down from the 25 percent that project planners had been counting on.
The Orange County Board of Commissioners will consider Monday, Dec. 5, whether to sign a letter of intent to help GoTriangle and its partners find $40 million more for the project over a 10-year period. The agreement on the table Monday does not commit the county to paying the money yet.
GoTriangle asked the Durham County Board of Commissioners earlier this week to help find $135 million more over 10 years. The Joint City-County Committee, which includes three City Council members and three county commissioners, unanimously voted Tuesday to take the request to their respective boards.
GoTriangle also has been working for three months with a Funding and Community Collaborative of university, government and private individuals to look for alternative funding sources and land that might be donated for the light-rail line.