Wake County

Wake County doubles transit-planning budget

The planning of Wake County’s transit system will take more work and more money than originally announced.

The budget for the bus and rail planning process increased from $230,000 to $470,000 with the approval of the Wake County Board of Commissioners on Monday.

That expanded bill, to be split between multiple governments and groups, will pay for more meetings, more alternative scenarios and more publications about the effort. The effort is meant to distill local opinions and realities into a strategy for transit, including potential bus and rail routes.

Among the largest changes: Consultant Jarrett Walker will hold another lengthy meeting of the 70-strong advisory committee, which includes representatives from across the county. And, rather than two final options, the county will have four alternatives.

Commissioners John Burns and Jessica Holmes asked whether the county government should have anticipated the extra costs earlier.

“My radar goes up anytime something costs a quarter-million dollars more than it originally did,” Burns said.

Tim Maloney, director of planning, development and inspections, said that the largest new cost was the plan to develop four “scenarios,” or broad plans for transit, rather than two.

“We realized that because of the complexity of our geography … we needed to dive more into the options,” he told the board.

The county also found that there was more demand from the public for information and engagement than expected. Staff and consultants have attended scores of meetings about the plan.

This should be the last budget increase for the process, Maloney said.

“We have all collectively made the agreement that we’re not coming to the well any more on this one,” he said.

Among other new duties, the consultants will attend more meetings with the “technical” team and other interested parties; perform more analysis; and have more materials translated into Spanish. The county also will put $88,000 of the money to public outreach, including production of a video and other materials.

Chairman James West said the extra expenses would make the project better. The board hadn’t anticipated the extra costs when it approved the current spending plan last August, when Republicans still held a majority, he said.

“You scan the environment; you make some adjustments,” he said, referring to the need for flexibility. Staff had initially said $210,000 was the most they thought they’d spend.

Under the new plan, the county will pay about $52,000, as will Triangle Transit, the city of Raleigh and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. The town of Cary and N.C. State University will pay about $20,000 each, while Raleigh-Durham International Airport and the Research Triangle Foundation will pay about $5,000 each.

The county expects to publish a report on some of its potential transit choices in May, followed by months of efforts to gain public comment on the possibilities, and the presentation of a final recommended plan for board approval this fall.

Kenney: 919-829-4870;

Twitter: @KenneyNC