- The Chapel Hill Town Council approved an agreement with the Research Triangle Regional Public Transportation Authority (GoTriangle) that will govern how the two will work together on the design and construction of a $2.5 billion, 17.7-mile light-rail line between North Carolina Central University in Durham and the University of North Carolina hospitals in Chapel Hill.
- The council approved the agreement after soliciting public input and implementing revisions to the final draft, which outlines each party’s roles and responsibilities, as well as procedures that will help reduce impact to the town. GoTriangle must also secure similar agreements with several other organizations and entities, including the University of North Carolina, Duke Energy and the North Carolina DOT for rights of way. The city of Durham gave its approval for the plan this week as well.
- According to GoTriangle, it expects the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program to pay for 50% of the new line’s costs. Durham County will pay about 30%. Orange County, which includes Chapel Hill, will pay 6% and the state will provide almost 8%. Both Durham and Orange counties will pay their shares through half-cent increases to local sales taxes. The authority also intends to seek loans through the federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program and explore other financing options. Design and engineering are underway, with construction expected to start in 2020 and wrap up in 2028.
The FTA’s New Starts funding initiative is part of the agency’s $2.3 billion-a-year Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program and is reserved for select transportation projects of $300 million or more that are seeking funding of at least $100 million. In addition, the agency's Small Starts program offers funding for projects that are less than $300 million and that are seeking financing of less than $100 million.
The FTA and President Donald Trump’s administration have come under fire recently amid accusations that they are intentionally holding up the release of money for projects that have been approved for funding under the CIG program.
The transit advocacy group Transportation for America, which tracks this data, estimates that almost $1.7 billion of more than $2.3 billion in federal transportation construction funding has not yet been released, a figure that includes funding approved in 2017. Thus far, the FTA has maintained that some of the projects in question have not yet met funding requirements.