GoTriangle’s light-rail planners have ruled out a station and maintenance shop east of Alston Avenue – for now.
At Saturday’s last public meeting on the project before the fall, their decision pleased some and saddened some.
“It’s just a big relief for us,” said Edgar Orr, who lives off Pettigrew Street near a site considered for the shop, or “Rail Operations and Maintenance Facility.” “We were thinking we were going to have to move.”
Daryl Odom has the opposite perspective. GoTriangle has a parking garage planned for a station west of Alston Avenue, where Odom’s home now stands on Murphy Street.
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His grandfather built the house, he said. “You’ve been here all these years ... we don’t want to move.”
Others remained skeptical of GoTriangle’s reasoning, that space constraints, possible delays and extra costs make bridging Alston Avenue for a station and shop on the east side less than feasible.
“I’m not comfortable we’ve seen enough evidence,” said John Hodges-Copple, regional planning director with the Triangle J Council of Governments.
“I think there’s a litany of responses to those concerns. ... I hope this is still being kept open,” said Jim Svara of the Northeast Central Durham Leadership Council.
“Right now,” said Dave Charters, GoTriangle’s design and engineering manager, “we’re set.”
The west-side Alston station, and two other possible maintenance facility locations, are among GoTriangle’s preferences for a “Draft Environmental Impact Statement” the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) requires before the project can apply for federal funding.
In late summer, the FTA is scheduled to publish the impact statement, with a 45-day public comment period to follow. Those comments are for use in a final environmental statement, due in February 2016.
As it stands, the transit agency’s maintenance facility preferences (nando.com/1ci) include either of two sites, each about 20 acres, for the shop: one at the former Pepsi-Cola bottling plant location off Cornwallis Road, the other roughly mid-way along the line on Farrington Road.
The Farrington site is the less expensive, at an estimated $62 to $93 million, but would displace six homes and require a time-consuming rezoning and land-use approval process.
Building at Cornwallis could cost $74 million to $111 million. It would involve displacing an under-construction mini-storage facility, but has met opposition from members of the neighboring Judea Reform congregation and Levin Jewish Community Center.
GoTriangle has also stated preferences for routes crossing Little Creek, near the Durham-Orange county line, and New Hope Creek near the Patterson Place shpping center on U.S. 15-501.
At New Hope Creek, the favored route – called “NHC2” – runs along U.S. 15-501 before curving off to loop around existing businesses near the highway. That route accommodates both the business owners, who had objected to a longer alternative near 15-501, and environmentalists who objected to an alternate farther south across an undisturbed bottomland.
The favored Little Creek alignment, called C2A, runs along the south side of N.C. 54, accommodating environmental concerns with an alternate, C1A, crossing bottomlands farther north. However, residents south of N.C. 54, especially the Downing Creek neighborhood (nando.com/1ax), strongly oppose that route due to potential safety hazards and traffic backups at grade crossings carrying up to 140 trains a day.
GoTriangle, though, estimates the N.C. 54 route will carry 1,000 more riders per day and cost less – $14 to $22 million versus $36 to 54 million – than the bottomland crossing (which has also been opposed by residents in the Meadowmont neighborhood of Chapel Hill).
The Durham-Orange Light Rail system is planned as a 17-mile line between UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill and Alston Avenue in East Durham. Trains would run seven days a week, every 10 minutes during peak commuter times and every 20 minutes at other times, along separate eastbound and westbound tracks, powered from overhead electric wires.
GoTriangle, lead agency on the project, has submitted its route preferences and supporting data, including analyses of the line’s effects on the natural and built environments, to the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) as part of an application process for federal funding.
The FTA will publish a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, based on its review of GoTriangle’s data, in late summer, and set a 45-day period for public comment. During that period, GoTriangle plans to hold two public information sessions and two public hearings to receive comment. Durham, Chapel Hill and Orange County governments may hold hearings of their own during that time.
After receiving comment, GoTriangle has until late February 2016 to complete and submit its final Environmental Impact Statement. If it meets FTA approval, the light-rail project will go on to a final engineering phase expected to take three years and finish requirements to make formal application for federal money.
If all goes well, trains would begin running in early 2026.