A group representing Northeast Central Durham wants Triangle Transit to think again about where it ends the Durham-Orange Light Rail in that neighborhood.
Originally, the plan was to put the line’s terminal station east of Alston Avenue – with the idea of using the North Carolina Railroad’s bridge to get across the street.
When it turned out that sharing the bridge did not suit the railroad’s own future plans, Triangle Transit shifted the end of the line to the west side of Alston, at Grant Street – a difference of about a quarter mile.
“It doesn’t seem like much of a shift, but it is a shift in the wrong direction,” said Jim Svarra, a member of the Northeast Central Durham Leadership Council who brought that group’s complaint to the InterNeighborhood Council (INC) last week.
The Leadership Council is a nonprofit made up of Northeast Central Durham residents and others interested in that long-depressed area’s revitalization, including INC Council President Philip Azar and Vice President DeDreanna Freeman.
“The system doesn’t get very far into East Durham as it is,” Svarra said.
Triangle Transit’s original station site was a half mile from Driver Street, which has become “a focus of economic development activity,” Svarra said.
Moving it puts the station beyond what transit planners consider feasible walking distance for stations; also farther from the R. Kelly Bryant pedestrian bridge that residents south of the Durham Freeway could use to reach the light rail.
The move also puts the station more than a half-mile from the McDougald Terrace public-housing complex; and it reduces the likelihood of the light-rail maintenance shop and its job potential coming to East Durham and of the line’s future extension east with direct service to Driver Street and Durham Tech.
A Leadership Council resolution calls on Triangle Transit to consider other alignments, outside the railroad corridor, for crossing Alston Avenue and extending light rail farther east.
Azar pointed out that in the overall transit-improvement plan, areas farther east would be served by a separate “commuter rail” system running from downtown Durham to Raleigh.
“But the point is still valid with regard to light rail,” Azar said, adding that the free Bull City Connector bus service, whose route ends at the Golden Belt complex, “barely made it to East Durham.
“This runs the risk of happening again with light rail,” Azar said. “The time to get this right ... is now.”
The INC did not endorse the resolution, but encouraged Svarra and the Leadership Council to let Triangle Transit know its opinions. Public meetings on the light-rail route through downtown Durham are planned in June,
“The clock is ticking,” said Mike Shiflett, the INC representative from Northgate Park. “The time for comment is now.”
Triangle Transit responds
The Northeast Central Durham Leadership Council resolution says that the group was “distressed that (Triangle Transit) did not request our input or inform us of the possible change in the station site” prior to announcing it at a meeting of county commissioners and City Council members in January.
After seeing the resolution last week, Triangle Transit spokesman Brad Schulz sent The Durham News an email response:
“We look forward to continuing our conversation with residents of NE Central Durham. Since this project began, engagement with the community has been a top priority with over 200 public sessions, neighborhood meetings and community discussions reaching 4,000 individuals. Public feedback is highly valued and will make this project better in every way. We take all interests of the community very seriously and look forward to sharing the information of our intensive study.”
Shaping Our Community
What’s happening: Triangle Transit is providing updates and seeking feedback on the proposed Durham-Orange Light Rail Project is a 17.1 mile light rail transit line which extends from UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill to east of downtown Durham.
What you can do: Submit comments to Triangle Transit at nando.com/form. Comments may also be submitted to email@example.com; Our Transit Future, P.O. Box 530, Morrisville, NC 27560; or a toll-free hotline at 800-816-7817. Forms received will be added to our comments database within 5 days of receipt.
What’s next: Triange Transit will present data for the proposed project from the Ninth Street station to the proposed Alston Avenue Maintenance Facility from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, June 4, at the Durham Station 515 W. Pettigrew St. and from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 6, at John Avery Boys and Girls Club 808 E. Pettigrew St. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement is expected to be released for public comment later this year.