One proposed light rail system, spanning two counties, received support Monday from two congressmen.
Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-1st District, and David Price, D-4th District, whose districts encompass Durham and Orange counties, took a bus tour Monday morning along the proposed route of GoTriangle’s Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project.
The line would be 17.7 miles long with 18 stops from UNC Hospitals to the intersection of Alston Avenue and Lawson Street at N.C. Central University.
The tour began in Chapel Hill and ended at the proposed last stop in Durham.
“Standing on this corner reminds me of August of 1965 when I came to Durham as a freshman student, here at North Carolina Central University,” Butterfield said. “It was right across the street in room 331 that I began my college career.”
“Today’s tour showed the potential of this project to connect communities throughout the region,” he said.
The congressman said light rail would support the Triangle’s rapid growth and provide “a forward-looking transportation alternative,” making commutes to work, school, medical centers and local businesses easier.
NCCU Interim Chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye said the line would allow “our faculty and staff, who may commute by automobile, to take advantage of a safer, cleaner mode of transportation each day.”
GoTriangle has applied to the Federal Transit Administration to take the project into the engineering phase. GoTriangle spokesman Mike Charbonneau said the FTA is expected to reply at the end of this month.
If approved, GoTriangle will begin the final design plans for the project and those plans will then be presented to the FTA in July 2019, Charbonneau said, with the hope that the FTA will then recommend that the light rail project be included in the 2020 fiscal year federal budget.
If the lproject makes it through, the FTA has committed to funding half its estimated $2.5 billion price tag, with the other half matched by state, local or other funds.
“In the 21st century, we must find creative ways of moving our populations and workers to different points within the region,” Butterfield said. “Our interstate highways and our freeways have now become crowded. They’re expensive to maintain. But light rail is the choice of transportation for the future.”
Price echoed Butterfield’s words.
“The Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project is a vital component of the Triangle's transportation future,” Price said. “Today's tour from UNC to NC Central demonstrated the broad public support for the project in the diverse Orange and Durham County neighborhoods it will serve.”