AASHTO Journal

North Carolina Transit System Cites FTA Approval to Proceed on Major Light Rail Project

The Federal Transit Administration cleared a proposed 17.7-mile light rail project in North Carolina's Durham and Orange countries to proceed to its final design or engineering phase, the GoTriangle agency announced.

"This achievement means that the project remains eligible for over $1 billion in federal money" from the FTA's capital grant program for new projects, said the transit system serving the state's Research Triangle area.

It expects construction on the $2.47 billion project to begin in 2020, the announcement said, and rail transit service to start in 2028.  

capitol0816.jpgGoTriangle said the FTA "evaluated the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit (D-O LRT) project and issued favorable ratings in three major areas – the local financial commitment, the justification for the project and the project's engineering readiness."

It also said the favorable justification rating was based on mobility improvements, environmental benefits, congestion relief, economic development effects, land use and cost-effectiveness of the project. 

Among next steps, GoTriangle said it and partners in the two affected counties "will continue to advance the D-O LRT project so that FTA is able to recommend federal funding by 2020."

The FTA said in May that GoTriangle proposes to put the rail line in a corridor that extends from the University of North Carolina Hospital in Chapel Hill to North Carolina Central University in Durham. "The proposed project will include 18 stations, approximately 4,400 parking spaces, a maintenance facility and the purchase of 18 LRT vehicles," the FTA said.

GoTriangle said the FTA's approval letter included the statement that the "FTA has determined that GoTriangle has the technical capacity and capability to effectively manage the engineering phase of the project."

As to paying for it, the local agency said: "The federal government is expected to fund 50 percent of the project's $2.47 billion design and construction costs, contingent on the remaining 50 percent coming from a combination of existing dedicated local transit funds, state funds and other private contributions."

It said the light rail project is eligible for up to 10 percent in state funding, and that "the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization will resubmit the D-O LRT project through the North Carolina Department of Transportation's funding process."

In addition, "local funds will come from vehicle registration fees, car rental fees and a half-cent transit tax approved by voters in Orange County and Durham County," it said.

Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.

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