Planners and engineers working on the Durham-Orange Light Rail project will meet the Durham public twice this week to give updates and get reaction on its route.
The meetings, Thursday at the Durham Station bus depot and Saturday at the John Avery Boys and Girls Club, follow up on public-comment sessions held in March.
Those dealt with alternative track plans from UNC Hospitals to the Duke and Veterans Affairs medical centers on Erwin Road. This week’s meetings deal with the rest of the line, through downtown Durham to its eastern end at Alston Avenue.
They also cover latest results of environmental-impact research along the entire 17-mile route. A draft report, with “preferred alternatives” for the route, are due for delivery to the Federal Transit Administration in June.
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Getting those documents done on time is one step in the qualifying process for federal money, which GoTriangle (formerly Triangle Transit Authority), lead agency on the light-rail project, and local governments are relying on to cover half the $1.8-billion estimated construction cost.
The current design shows the light rail’s double tracks continuing from a medical-centers station between Trent and Flowers drives to a Ninth Street station elevated to the level of the existing railroad tracks.
From that point, an elevated line crosses Swift Avenue, curves south across Campus Drive to the north side of the Durham Freeway, comes to ground level before reaching Buchanan Boulevard and continues east across Chapel Hill Street to enter a reconfigured Pettigrew Street.
Tracks share the Pettigrew corridor to the end of the line terminal near Alston Avenue.
Location for the Alston terminal has become a hot topic since GoTriangle switched it from east of Alston Avenue, near the Pettigrew Street water tower, to the west side between Colfax and Murphy streets.
The distance between the sites is 1,290 feet, slightly less than a quarter mile.
East Durham residents, supporters and some City Council members have complained that the change leaves low-income, predominantly minority eastern neighborhoods – whose residents need public transit most – less well-served; and that planners did not give enough thought to other locations farther east.
Originally, GoTriangle hoped to share space for its double-track line on the North Carolina Railroad’s bridge over Alston Avenue, but NCRR’s own expansion plans left room for only a single light-rail track.
According to GoTriangle planners, a single track leading to the terminal station would disrupt the entire 17-mile system’s operating schedule, which calls for trains running each way every 10 minutes during peak travel hours.
Crossing Alston with a bridge of its own adds cost, and moving the light rail away from the NCRR right-of-way leaves unworkable space constraints between the water tower and Durham Freeway, the design engineers have said.
GoTriangle (formerly Triangle Transit) holds two public meetings on the Durham-Orange Light Rail project this week in Durham.
▪ Thursday, 4-7 p.m., Durham Station bus terminal, 5151 W. Pettigrew St. Presentations at 4:15, 5:15 and 6:15.
▪ Saturday, 2-5 p.m: John Avery Boys and Girls Club, 808 E. Pettigrew St. Presentations at 2:15, 3:15 and 4:15.
Formal presentations will be given three times at each meeting, followed by questions and comment periods. Presentations cover results of environmental studies for the entire corridor, and latest data on planned route from the Duke/Veterans Administration medical centers station to the Durham-Orange Light Rail’s eastern terminal near Alston Avenue.