Chapel Hill: Opinion

What you’re saying: Stanley M. Epstein, Jill Milidonis Edens and Joan Guilkey

Let’s step back on light rail

Your recent front page article on the proposed light rail was entitled “Would light-rail line benefit Carrboro too”? This implies that there is wide agreement that Chapel Hill and Durham will benefit from this project.

From the letters and columns you have published over the years, this is decidedly not true. Most people are against this project and would strongly agree with Alderwoman Jacquie Gist’s statement that, “I’m not hearing a lot of people who want this. There’s a small group of zealots who want it.”

As for Rep. G. K. Butterfield’s comment that this project “has the potential to connect communities throughout the region,” it does not do that; it does not go to the airport, RTP, Hillsborough, Southern Village, or Pittsboro, and Raleigh and Wake County want nothing to do with the light rail system.

The zealots Alderwoman Gist refers to and Go Triangle staff have been cobbling together proposals for changes – route changes to include NCCU, funding changes, etc., to keep the minimal support they have. This tells me even they do not have confidence that the routes they have been proposing are the best for the region.

Let’s step back and conduct research to discover what regional transportation system makes most sense now in light of housing and commercial developments that have been built and/or approved/proposed since this project was first conceived. A new survey must inform respondents about current estimates of travel time, costs, locations served, etc., to enable them to give their most educated responses.

It is time for each of us to ask the question: “Given what I know about this project would I really use it ... and more important, do I want to spend my money to build it? because each of us has been and will continue to pay for it!

Stanley M. Epstein

Chapel Hill

Pay attention to light-rail plan

Last week I contacted about 30 friends/neighbors and asked them how they feel about the current transit plan for Orange and Durham counties.

We approved a half cent tax and added $3 to our vehicle license costs to pay for the plan in 2012. Now, four years later, GoTriangle, our project leader, is ready to begin the engineering phase. Almost no one I spoke to knew what GoTriangle has been doing for the last four years, much less how much tax money they have spent so far. My friends also do not know that the money is supposed to cover both a light rail system and expanded bus routes. We are spending about $5 million/year.

GoTriangle asked for additional funds from both Orange and Durham counties before Christmas because their costs have risen and our legislature seems to be reneging on a promise to pay for up to 25 percent and the federal transit association is not likely to keep its pledge to pay up to 50 percent. The original cost was $1.5 billion over perhaps 10 years. Now GoTriangle wants $2.5 billion over perhaps 12 years.

If we allow our county commissioners to let GoTriangle continue down this path, we local taxpayers will be responsible for another $935,000,000 and it will take about 50 years to pay for. Of course the train and buses will wear out before then, and we will have been asked to replace them at unknown cost in 30 years.

Some of your neighbors have run the numbers and found that switching from the current plan to one involving rapid bus transit (no rail) will cost about one-tenth the amount, take less time to implement and reach many more riders. Think about it. It is your money. PLEASE contact our commissioners before April 1. Two of them understand and are listening; the rest so far are not. They will vote “up or down”on the plan soon.

Joan Guilkey

Chapel Hill

A precious promise

I was devastated when a newly resettled immigrant in our congregation confided, “I am afraid that there is an America that wants our community to fail.”

As the granddaughter of a Greek immigrant who came to Ellis Island a whisper ahead of the holocaust that consumed his family and the communities of Greeks and Armenians in Asia Minor following World War I, it never would have crossed my mind that any American would want my grandfather or his community to fail. America in his life and in the life of our family was and always will be the land of promise.

I have learned that this promise is precious to my congregants. Our church’s Visual Arts Committee wanted to find a way for our community to “see anew” who we are as immigrant brothers and sisters under one banner. They created a project intended to celebrate our many origins and to grow deeper in relationship with each other and in love for this “nation of immigrants.”

Starting three Sundays ago church members made “Badges of Honor,” one to wear and one to display on the American flag that identifies all who have emigrated. The flag has become “holy ground” as the names of new immigrants and the sons and daughters of immigrants fill up the stars and stripes with their own names and names of loved ones who have come to these shores. There are badges on the flag marked “slave” honoring the memory of those for whom “hope unborn had died,” a reminder of Martin Luther King’s words: “We may have all come on different ships but we’re in the same boat now.”

We are encouraged that so many communities are finding ways to celebrate the America that still can be the hope that “lifts her lamp at the golden door!”

The Rev. Dr. Jill Milidonis Edens

Senior pastor

United Church of Chapel Hill, UCC

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