Thanks to the Chapel Hill News for providing a long-running forum for discussion and debate of the proposed Chapel Hill-Durham light rail line. Thanks also to GoTriangle for its hard work in developing a concept that was begun with high hopes but which is now hopelessly troubled. Whatever their feelings about the desirability of light rail in general, local elected officials should put this particular project out of its misery.
Consider: The legislature, which isn’t going to change its spots anytime soon, is ruled by a majority that’s reflexively opposed to rail-based transit. Thus the state has clamped down hard on future financial aid sorely needed for the light-rail project. The Trump administration is no better. Despite his campaign promises of bold infrastructure spending, President Trump’s budget document warns that “Future investments in new transit projects would be funded by the localities that use and benefit from these localized projects.” Even if Congress were to appropriate substantial funding, the U.S. Department of Transportation could refuse to spend the money – and it’s unrealistic to expect a Trump administration to look kindly on federal money for solidly Democratic Orange and Durham counties.
The increasingly obvious bottom line is that local taxpayers and transit users will have to pay a burdensome, even debilitating share of the project’s very substantial costs, no matter how creatively GoTriangle explores funding options.
Couple all this with the built-in deficiencies of the designated rail route – which isn’t aimed squarely at the commuter market – and the threat of financial peril is simply too great. With the writing on the wall, local elected officials should take a clear look, end the project decisively and open the way to a more realistic and possibly better transit future.
Trump and light-rail
Has President Trump derailed the Durham Orange Light Rail Transit project?
What began as a dream for light-rail advocates has turned into a financial nightmare.
The plan was always debatable in terms of cost and services. However, recent developments in Raleigh and Washington have opened up a giant sinkhole that threatens to suck Orange County taxpayers into it for decades.
First, the total costs have ballooned from $1.3 billion to $3.3 billion. Second, the state has cut its share from 25 percent to 10 percent AT MOST. Now the expected federal share of HALF may be completely gone.
The president has proposed substantial cuts in mass transit funding, starting this year. No new projects would be approved. Maryland has apparently lost a 16-mile light rail line. (NYT April 5).
Because of complications with financing, Wake County is struggling with its bus-commuter rail plan. (Chapel Hill News April 12.)
In addition, the Trump administration is considering turning infrastructure projects over to private investors. What hedge fund wants to build and run a light rail system?
A financial consultant recently underscored the peril for Orange County: its projected cash balances are already so low there is a “very, very thin margin” to pay for predicted expenses over many years.
If there are any cost over-runs for rail, the county would have to raise taxes and/or cut funding for buses, schools, police and fire or other vital services.
The Board of County Commissioners must make a pledge to the federal government by April 30.
I hope they will make the common-sense, financially wise move and admit that, regardless of the merits, DOLRT could be a financial disaster for local taxpayers.
Instead, let’s have an affordable transportation network that works for all. Expanded use of buses, including in dedicated lanes (some already planned), is a quicker, cheaper, and more flexible option .
Texting while driving
An open letter to Congressman Price:
During a recent auto trip to Florida and back, my wife and I were impressed by the number of cars and semi-trailers that we saw weaving within and out of their lane. We passed a few and noted that the drivers were almost invariably texting while driving. We even passed two trucks that had driven off the expressway with no sign of another vehicle or evidence of braking or sudden swerving. I’m suspicious that the drivers were texting and drove right off the road!
Upon returning home I heard on a local news program that the automobile fatality figures have risen again for 2016 (after a record number of deaths in 2015). Through further research I have learned that pedestrian and bicycle deaths due to colliding with automobiles have accounted for a growing share of total traffic deaths since 2007.
I cannot program the GPS system or change the clock in my car once it is moving. I think this is a great safety feature and feel that all cell phones (which have an internal GPS) should be mandated to stop the texting function once the GPS finds the phone is moving at more than, let’s say, 5 mph. This would prevent texting by auto and bike operators (yes I’ve seen bicyclists texting while bicycling!) from that distraction while operating their vehicle. To satisfy airplane passengers, the texting function could turn back on once the phone is moving at more than 150 mph.
Since texting while driving is already illegal in most areas and driving is a privilege, I think that even many Republicans would agree with this form of “government meddling in our affairs”!
Edwin L. Nirdlinger
Israel and U.S. support
Recent letters to the Chapel Hill News spend their time arguing for or against current Israeli policies. For example, Amy Rosenthal (CHN, April 12) wastes her time arguing that Palestinians are responsible for walls, West Bank settlements and other Israeli policies making life difficult for Palestinians.
Such arguments are irrelevant. No matter who is to blame for the situation, it is clear that world support for Israeli actions is diminishing, even in the U.S., Israel’s greatest supporter. And arguments will not change this.
Support for Israel used to be non-partisan. To a large extent it still is, but Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu made a terrible mistake when he accepted the Republican invitation to visit the U.S. and speak before Congress – while ignoring our Democratic president. Israel is now well on the road to becoming a partisan issue. This can only weaken future Democratic Party support for Israel. Arguments will not change this.
Supporters of Israel also need to realize just how unpopular Israeli behavior has become on our college campuses. Forget for a moment whether students and faculty are right or wrong: we are dealing with the very dangerous fact that no amount of talk and argument is likely to change the attitudes of our future leaders.
It doesn’t matter if the Palestinians have messed things up before, as Ms Rosenthal argues – or if they are still doing it, for that matter. If Israel needs future U.S. support – and it does – it has to stay out of U.S. partisan politics, stop letting Israeli settlers move to the West Bank and get serious about peace negotiations. It doesn’t matter who is “right” or “wrong.”
Israel’s right to exist
J. Mark Davidson (CHN, March 29) found my article “poorly researched” and accuses me of smearing Rasmea Odeh despite her being a convicted terrorist. In his guest column Davidson did not report that within the past few weeks Odeh agreed to a plea deal in which she will lose her U.S. citizenship and be deported.
In her letter to the editor, Judith Ferster (CHN, March 29) writes that “Israelis have grown comfortable with oppressing” millions of Palestinians. With significant international support from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, Israel has repeatedly offered the Palestinians viable and dignified statehood. It is Palestinian leaders and some of their supporters who have grown comfortable rejecting Palestinian statehood, rejecting Israel’s right to exist, and embracing violence.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) includes Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) in its “Top Ten Anti-Israel Groups in America.” The Central Conference of American Rabbis, self described as “the oldest and largest rabbinic organization in North America,” refers to JVP as a “virulently anti-Israel organization.” The ADL highlights JVP’s “willingness to partner with anti-Israel organizations that deny Israel’s right to exist and legitimize terror, and its refusal to support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” The ADL explains, “While JVP’s activists try to portray themselves as Jewish critics of Israel, their ideology is nothing but a complete rejection of Israel.” It is not surprising that in April, Rasmea Odeh was an invited keynote speaker at JVP’s conference.
It is deeply troubling that in a 2014 speech titled “Remarks on the Steps of the State Capitol Building,” archived at aimeproject.org, Davidson urged others to “connect” with JVP and stated that JVP is doing “vital work.” In 2014, Ferster was listed on Facebook as a speaker for an “Emergency Protest for Gaza” event and credited with being “a member of Jewish Voice for Peace.”
Instead of embracing groups such as JVP that demonize Israel, we should be applauding Israel’s tremendous efforts to achieve peace and encouraging the Palestinian leadership to accept a Palestinian state living peacefully side by side with Israel.
Please send up to 300 words to firstname.lastname@example.org. All submissions, online comments and posts on editor Mark Schultz’s Facebook page may be edited for space and clarity.