The Orange County Board of Commissioners learned more Tuesday about a $125 million plan to add Bus Rapid Transit service to a busy Chapel Hill corridor.
The BRT corridor is expected to run from the Eubanks Road park-and-ride lot near Interstate 40, down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to UNC and south to Southern Village.
The high-capacity buses could run seven days a week, stopping every 7.5 to 20 minutes, depending on service needs, Chapel Hill Transit director Brian Litchfield said. The total time to travel the 8.2-mile route is estimated at 33 minutes.
Construction is expected between 2020 and 2022, he said; the final route will be determined before engineering begins.
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While roughly 85 percent of the route could operate within the existing right of way, Litchfield noted the area downtown and through UNC’s campus will be challenging. The buses may need to travel in mixed traffic or in an existing lane at that point, forcing cars in both directions into a single lane of traffic. (Watch a conceptual video at vimeo.com/148875630)
That caused some concern for the commissioners about worsening congestion. Litchfield noted the far-right travel lanes in those areas already fill with buses at peak travel times.
“That’s an area that we’re going to spend quite a bit of time on in the project development phase, doing the modeling, working with the property owners, other interests downtown, to see if we can come up with way to meet as many interests as possible without making the situation worse than it is today,” he said.
One of BRT’s benefits will be connecting riders to other bus routes and to light-rail transit at the hospital, he said. BRT also will free up buses to serve other parts of the community, while growing ridership in the corridor from 8,500 a day to 12,500 a day by 2040, he said.
The project was accepted into the Federal Transit Administration’s Smart Starts grant program in November. The federal agency, if the project is approved, could pay up to 70 percent of the cost.
“There’s only a handful of active BRT projects in (same region), which potentially bodes well for us as we compete for funding,” Litchfield said.
The Orange County Bus and Rail Investment Plan anticipates providing $6.1 million of the local money. The remaining amount remains to be worked out, but most could come from transit partners Chapel Hill, Carrboro and UNC.