Duke University's snub a 'major setback' to $3B North Carolina light rail project
- The Research Triangle Regional Public Transportation Authority (GoTriangle), which serves Wake, Durham and Orange counties in North Carolina, said its plans for the $3.3 billion Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project had suffered a “major setback” after Duke University officials this week refused to sign a critical agreement necessary to move the project forward. The proposed route would take the line near Duke’s patient and biomedical research facilities.
- In a Wednesday letter to Jeff Mann, GoTriangle's president and CEO, university officials said that the due diligence process thus far had not been able to adequately resolve several potential safety, ethical and financial challenges including: electromagnetic interference from the line and its impact on patient care and devices; vibration from excavation operations that would interfere with delicate surgical procedures and research; the potential for power interruption to Duke facilities; and the liability if construction or operation of the line should cause damage to people or property.
- GoTriangle said it will consult with county officials and the Federal Transit Administration to determine its next course of action.
Durham Mayor Steve Schewel suggested that GoTriangle might resort to eminent domain in order to see the highly anticipated light-rail project through to fruition, The News & Observer reported. A $237 million tunnel underneath Durham increased construction costs to from $2.4 billion to $2.7 billion, which does not include interest.
GoTriangle’s plans for the light rail line took another hit this week as well. North Carolina Railroad Company (NCRR) officials informed the agency that they could not approve plans to fit the double-track, electrified light rail system along the NCRR corridor and next to NCCR’s main line. Citing a concern for the safety of freight and Amtrak trains, as well as riders and pedestrians, railroad officials suggested that GoTriangle continue to work on the Durham-Orange design plans, which are only 20% complete. NCCR did offer to communicate to the FTA that it would approve a lease with GoTriangle as soon as mutually agreed on plans were developed.
Light rail lines continue to face opposition in some metros, amid discussions about increasing costs and declining ridership. But construction firms, which stand to benefit from the projects, are backing these systems in Phoenix. The Arizona Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America is suing the city and a local advocacy group to nix a proposed ballot initiative that could reduce local light rail funding.
Building a Better Phoenix’s proposed measure would direct about $7 billion of light rail construction money to other transportation modes. The AZAGC is arguing that the group paid those who were gathering signatures for the petition, which the contractors say is illegal in Arizona. The chapter is also alleging that Building a Better Phoenix misled those who signed the petition by not telling them passage of the measure would affect current light rail service.
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