Letter from Sens. Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr to Carter Worthy, chairwoman of the Triangle Transit Authority board of trustees:
Thank you for your interest in working with Congress on transportation challenges facing the Triangle/Wake County area. Providing efficient transportation affects not only the area's economic development opportunities, but also quality-of-life issues for the region. We recognize that any transit project built with federal tax dollars must be thoroughly examined and rigorously reviewed to ensure established federal standards and goals are met.
The Triangle Transit Authority's (TTA) proposal for a regional rail system is one recommendation toward meeting growth demands throughout the Triangle region. During this planning period for the rail initiative, we have relied on the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to provide transportation expertise and project judgment for this process. As you know, FTA revised its standard used to judge the cost-effectiveness of all federal transit projects in the spring of 2005. In response to this change, TTA informed us that the rail proposal ridership, cost-effectiveness and financials remained acceptable, and that the data only had to meet the new FTA standard.
Today, as you are aware, the FTA notified us and other congressional offices that the agency had thoroughly examined the rail project and concluded the proposal will have an overall low rating. This means the initiative does not meet the current required standards, nor the former standards. Due to this determination, FTA informs us that the regional rail project will not receive approval to execute pending contracts, nor will it be eligible for federal funds for construction at this time. For now, these points -- combined with FTA's statement that they are not optimistic that these problems are resolvable -- means that the rail project is likely not an option for the region; we therefore believe it is time for TTA to explore other possibilities.
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Should you have further questions, please feel free to contact our staff -- Al Garesche of Senator Dole's office or John Kane of Senator Burr's office.