Chapel Hill News

Orange County will talk about FTA’s light-rail deadline Tuesday

GoTriangle will meet with the Orange County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, March 7, to talk about the latest turn in the path toward a $2.5 billion Durham-Orange Light-Rail Transit system.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Whitted Meeting Facility, 300 W. Tryon St. in Hillsborough.

The commissioners and GoTriangle officials will discuss how to address the Federal Transit Administration’s April 30 deadline for Orange and Durham leaders to approved updated versions of their respective bus and rail investment plans.

The FTA needs a commitment for at least 30 percent of the project’s local cost – $371.1 million for the 17.7-mile light-rail line – before letting Durham and Orange start engineering work on the $2.5 billion light-rail project.

GoTriangle General Manager Jeff Mann told the boards of commissioners in an email Thursday that proposed letters of support to the FTA will not be enough to move into the next phase. The letters noted that the counties’ current plans commit a combined $455.7 million from the half-cent transit sales tax, vehicle registration fees and a car rental tax.

The commissioners agreed last month to delay a vote on the plans until June after hearing that GoTriangle needed more time to finish the revisions.

The project will stall if the counties miss the April 30 deadline, and any money spent between that date and the project’s re-entry into the federal funding pipeline will not be reimbursed.

Mann noted in his email that there are no guarantees that the project, if resubmitted next year, would be considered for a federal grant of over $1 billion.

“It is necessary for Durham County, Orange County, GoTriangle and the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization (DCHC MPO) to meet to discuss the options, next steps and best path forward for the planned light rail project,” Mann said Thursday.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb