Raleigh-Durham: Light Rail rapid transit-Durham to Chapel Hill

Raleigh-Durham: Residents get second look at light-rail to run from Durham to Chapel Hill

By Jim Wise
The News & Observer

DURHAM — The Bull City’s public got a virtual look at the planned light-rail line between Durham and Chapel Hill Wednesday night, in the second of three project updates Triangle Transit is holding this week.

Video monitors played simulations that followed the route from UNC Hospitals to Alston Avenue, with project consultants and Triangle Transit staff on hand to answer questions and change the views from overhead to track level, and from the 17-mile route to its surroundings as they might appear when the line is built.

“I wish everybody in my (neighborhood) association could see this,” said Durham resident Don Lebkes. “Fantastic.”

About 50 people turned out for the update at the Eno River Unity and Unitarian Fellowship Church on Garrett Road, slightly fewer than attended a Tuesday session in downtown Durham, according to Gavin Poindexter of the Morrisville engineering consultants URS Corp. A third meeting will be held from 4:30 to 7 p.m. today at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill.

The videos and other information available at the meetings is to be posted on the project website, bit.ly/b3k21k, by the end of this week.

This week’s public meetings are part of an environmental-impact “scoping” process required of transit projects applying for federal grants. Planners hope to cover half of the estimated $1.3 billion construction cost with federal grants, the rest from state funding and half-cent sales taxes Durham and Orange county voters have approved.

Before Wednesday’s meeting, Triangle Transit General Manager David King said the agency is investigating alternative sources of money, given uncertainties over the future of federal and state policies on subsidizing transportation projects.

“I’m backing it,” said resident Stan Bukowski. “I welcome this. It’s tying everything together.”

The light-rail route goes from UNC Hospitals to East Durham by way of the Friday Center, the I-40 corridor, the Patterson Place and South Square areas, Duke Medical Center and downtown Durham with 17 stations planned and four-car trains running at five-minute intervals.

It was conceived as part of a regional rail-bus transit system extending past Durham through Cary and Raleigh to the Wake-Johnston County line, but Wake County has yet to endorse its part of the regional plan or schedule a sales-tax referendum to help pay for it.

The already approved Durham-Orange rail line and associated bus improvements do not need Wake County participation to go ahead.

Video: Durham County-Orange County Light Rail Transit corridor (“fly-through”)


Triangle Transit’s Light Rail design in Raleigh and Durham

The Research Triangle Regional Public Transportation Authority  or Triangle Transit (formerly Triangle Transit Authority or TTA) provides regional bus service to Raleigh-Durham (Triangle) region of North Carolina in the counties of Wake, Durham and Orange.

Triangle Transit Rail Lines

Durham -Downtown

Triangle Transit Light Rail Downtown Durham

Elevated Light Rail tracks -Durham
Triangle Transit Light Rail Durham

Raleigh- Downtown
Triangle Transit Light -Rail downtown Raleigh

Triangle Transit Light Rail downtown Raleigh

Elevated Light Rail tracks -Raleigh
Triangle Transit Light Rail -Raleigh bridge

Chapel Hill Durham Light Rail

Woodmont Station

Triangle Transit Durham to Wake

Triangle Transit Wake County

Current public transit systems of the Raleigh-Durham metropolitan area

Triangle Transit
Triangle Transit Bus

Triangle Transit Raleigh

Triangle Transit bus

Research Triangle Park

Chapel Hill
Triangle Transit bus

Durham Area Transit Authority
Durham Area Transit Authority

Durham Area Transit Authority

Durham Area Transit Authority

Raleigh- Capital Area Transit
Capital Area Transit

Raleigh -Capital Area Transit

Raleigh-Capital Area Transit

Raleigh-Capital Area Transit

Proposed new design scheme for Raleigh’s CAT buses
Raleigh Capital Area Transit

Chapel Hill Transit
Chapel Hill Transit

Chapel Hill Transit

Cary Transit
Cary Transit

Cary Transit bus

North Carolina State University -Wolfline
NCSU Wolfline

NCSU Wolfline1

Duke University Transit
Duke University Transit

Duke University Transit

Raleigh-Durham’s original rapid transit project failed to be built
Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) rapid transit system


October 1988

1988 October 31 Triangle Transit Authority Raleigh-Durham Light Rail

Triangle Fixed Guideway Study is completed by the Triangle Transit Authority (TTA), after securing a grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to study long-range regional public transportation for the three-county Triangle region (Durham, Orange and Wake).

August 1994

1994 August 7 Triangle Transit Authority Raleigh-Durham Light Rail 011994 August 7 Triangle Transit Authority Raleigh-Durham Light Rail 021994 August 7 Triangle Transit Authority Raleigh-Durham Light Rail 03

February 1995
Preliminary Recommendations for a Regional Transit Plan is adopted by the TTA Board of Trustees, after TTA evaluated several alternatives and received feedback from land use and transportation professionals, elected officials and the public.

October 1995
Recommendations for a Regional Transit Plan were adopted by the TTA Board of Trustees and subsequently incorporated into the region’s two long-range transportation plans. This document guides regional transit planning efforts today.

January 1998
TTA, in cooperation with the FTA, initiated the Preliminary Engineering (PE) phase of project development and started preparing a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed Regional Rail Transit System.

March 1998

1998 March 1 Triangle Transit Authority Raleigh-Durham Light Rail

March 1998 – Charlotte, North Carolina leaps Raleigh-Durham in transit planning

1998 March 15 Charlotte Transit Funding Tax

August 1998 – Charlotte, North Carolina leaps Raleigh-Durham in transit planning

1998 Aug 10 Charlotte Transit Funding Tax

December 1998

1998 Dec 29 Raleigh Rapid Rail Transit

May 2001
The DEIS was prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and all applicable federal rules and regulations.

January 2003
FTA issued a Record of Decision (ROD), confirming that the analyses, mitigation, public involvement, and other objectives had been met.

February 2003
Following the issuance of the ROD, the FTA approved TTA’s request to enter Final Design.

January 10, 2003
The Triangle Transit Authority’s (TTA) Phase I Regional Rail Project received its Record of Decision (ROD) from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

FTA has determined that the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) have been met for Phase I of the Regional Rail System in metropolitan Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina.

February 28, 2003
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced approval of the Triangle Transit Authority’s (TTA’s) requested to begin the final design of the Phase I Regional Rail System.

Earlier that year FTA issued a Record of Decision on the project, which certified that the environmental analysis and proposed mitigation plans are complete. The Record of Decision allowed TTA to begin property acquisition, but TTA still needed separate approval from FTA to begin final design of the 35-mile project, which would connect downtown Durham, Research Triangle Park, Cary and downtown Raleigh’s government center.

Earlier in 2003 TTA announced the selection of Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) as the General Engineering Consultant to manage the final design and construction. The PB Team included six local section designers as well as seven specialty designers.

Approximately 14 percent of the work was to be performed by local minority-owned/disadvantaged business enterprises (DBE). This work included final design of the track, bridges, grade crossings, grade separations, retaining walls and system-wide elements such as the vehicles, train control, communications and fare collection.

Congress appropriated $9 million earmark in FY 03 for the Phase I Regional Rail Transit System. TTA also received a $350,000 appropriation that would be applied toward bus operations.

June 26, 2003
Triangle Transit Authority (TTA) purchased 52 acres of land from CSX Corp. allowing TTA to obtain the necessary right of way for the entire 35-mile rail line corridor.

The CSX property encompassed that portion from Government Center in downtown Raleigh to Spring Forest Road. This segment of the regional rail project was expected to open in 2010.

TTA purchased land in the CSX right of way to be used for its own tracks, which would be no closer than 26 feet from the existing CSX track.

December 4, 2003
The North Carolina Board of Transportation voted to advance the Triangle Transit Authority (TTA) $71.1 million dollars for the Regional Rail Project.

The board’s action allowed TTA to maintain its timetable for the planned rail transit system.

Cities’ bus systems discussed a future merger into one metropolitan system.

July 24, 2004
A plan to merge the Raleigh and Durham bus systems into a new Triangle network could make public transit an option for suburban commuters who live or work beyond the reach of the old city bus routes.

If the two city councils had agree later that year, the Durham Area Transit Authority and Raleigh’s Capital Area Transit would combine their buses and their bus drivers with those of the Triangle Transit Authority (now Triangle Transit). The TTA, which was building a regional rail service, would run the consolidated transit system.

The merger would be completed before 2008, when the TTA planned to inaugurate commuter rail service along a 35-mile track through Durham, RTP, Cary and Raleigh.

Only Raleigh and Durham were moving to join the regional bus system suggested two years ago by a group of Triangle mayors. Chapel Hill officials had said their heavily used, fare-free transit service would remain independent for now. Cary and North Carolina State University were considering joining in a few years.

Consolidation would be phased in. The bus service would be governed by TTA trustees, who represent Triangle cities and counties.

DATA hiked its bus fare to $1 a year ago, so Durham riders were especially sensitive about price increases. CAT charged 75 cents, and a TTA ride costs was $1.50.

July 28, 2004
The TTA Board of Trustees voted to revise the scope of the Regional Rail Transit Project based on declining local revenues and rising construction costs.

The initial operating segment of the rail project with 12 stations from Ninth Street in Durham to the Government Center station in downtown Raleigh was scheduled to open in 2008. The board’s vote extended the opening of the 4 remaining stations – Duke Medical Center Station in Durham, and Highwoods Station, New Hope Church Road Station and Spring Forest Station in north Raleigh – beyond 2011. A decline in a primary source of funding for the rail project and the elimination of a key source of revenue caused TTA to reexamine its financial plan.

October 7, 2004
United Transit Systems (UTS) was recommended to supply up to 32 rapid rail cars for TTA’s Regional Rail Transit System. The Triangle Transit Authority (TTA) Board of Trustees was asked to award a contract up to $90.1 million dollars to UTS.

January 26, 2005

Triangle Transit Authority (TTA) now owned the former property of Dillon Supply Company in Downtown Raleigh. TTA paid Dillon Supply Company $9.825 million dollars for the property that that had housed the industrial and construction supplier since 1914.

The downtown Raleigh station would have been one of 12 built by TTA as part of its 28-mile Regional Rail Transit System linking Durham, Research Triangle Park, Cary and Raleigh. With the acquisition of the 6.14 acres from Dillon Supply.

TTA now owned 75% of the land it needed for the downtown Raleigh rail station.

May 3, 2005
Triangle Transit Authority (TTA) signed a limited design and engineering agreement with United Transit Systems (UTS) to begin work on the rapid rail vehicles that TTA would use for the 12-station, 28-mile Regional Rail Transit System between Durham, RTP, Cary and Raleigh.

The agreement allowed UTS to begin limited design and engineering on a mock-up of the rapid rail cars, allowing TTA to stay on schedule for production of the rail vehicles to meet the transit agency’s goal of rail passenger operations in late 2008.

June 30, 2005
The Triangle Transit Authority (TTA) was developing a world class rail transit system in the Triangle and seeked a master developer or developers to blend retail stores , offices, housing, entertainment, culture, and recreation around the rail stations.

August 2005
TTA completed the 100% level of design and continued progressing toward the receipt of federal funds. In late 2007, due to rising project costs and a change in federal New Starts cost-benefits formulas, Triangle Transit elected not to submit a New Starts application for FTA funding. As a result, work on the regional rail system was suspended in order to reexamine costs and future funding options.

As a result of several years of planning, Triangle Transit Authority (now Triangle Transit) and the Triangle Region’s two Metropolitan Planning Organizations adopted a Regional Transit Plan in the mid-1990’s. This plan included regional rail service, expanded bus service, shuttles, park-and-ride facilities and enhanced transit access for pedestrians and bicycles.

The Triangle Transit Board decided to construct a dedicated two-track system which can support more trains and provide more service. Initially, the service was proposed to run every 15 minutes in peak hours and every 30 minutes in off-peak hours and on weekends. The future, headways were expected to increase to 10 minutes during the peak hours and 20 minutes during the off-peak and weekends.

The service was to begin with approximately 18 hours a day, 7 days a week. The trains would average 34 miles per hour (includes station stop time).

August 1, 2005
Commuter Rail Line To Get Federal Funding

The national transportation budget approved by Congress gave the proposed rail line through the Triangle another chance to finally leave the station. TTA officials said they expected to receive $18 million from the federal government in the fiscal 2006 budget this fall, and the government was expected to pick up more than half of the estimated $631 million cost for building the rail line. 

The agency was finalizing designs for its 12 train stations along the rail line. Officials hoped to break ground on the main rail facility Spring of 2006 and on the line and stations late next year so the trains could be running by 2008.

TTA Rail Vehicle Mock-up at American Public Transportation Association Expo in Dallas, TX., September 26 – 28, 2005
Triangle Transit train design

TTA Proposed Rail Vehicle on display in the Raleigh-Durham October 15 – 16, 2005
Triangle Transit train design

Triangle Transit train design

Triangle Transit train design

Triangle Transit train design

October 2, 2005
The Triangle’s plan for trains was danger of losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money. Trains that were expected by late 2008 might not run for several more years — if ever.

TTA struggled to answer rigorous questions from federal officials about predictions of how many people will ride. And just as construction was planned to start, Washington changed the rules this year, setting a higher standard for cost-effectiveness than the project was ever designed to meet.

TTA missed a key deadline the previous week to produce the new ridership forecasts. Federal officials gave the agency until October 14, 20015  to finish the work and have the project considered for President Bush’s next budget.

No dirt had yet been turned, although TTA had spent nearly $43 million acquiring land and access to an existing railroad corridor.

The project’s cost has ballooned from a 1994 estimate of about $100 million to a new estimate of $759 million.

Even at that price, the 28-mile route would be seven miles shorter than its backers had  long wanted, a reduction that saved money. Four stations were cut, three in North Raleigh and one at Duke University Medical Center.

Federal authorities held up approval of most of the money needed for the project, more than $400
million. The brakes had been on the Triangle’s plans since late 2004 year.

John D. Claflin, TTA’s general manager, said the effort to reach an acceptable cost-effectiveness number amounts to a mission to save the project as was then designed.

U.S. Rep. David Price, a Democrat from Chapel Hill and a leading sponsor of the rail project, said the rules change could be akin to “moving the goalposts in the middle of the game.”

He said the Triangle should get the benefit of meeting prior standards because the system was developed under those assumptions. But it won’t unless Congress acts. “That’s potentially a serious problem,” Price said.

Systems in northern Virginia, California and Oregon received exemptions from the change. The exceptions were pushed by U.S. senators from those states: John Warner, Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein and Ron Wyden.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, (N.C. Republican) and former Federal Transportation Secretary, did not push for an exemption for TTA. Senator Dole said in an interview that she supports transit as an option in the Triangle but that the rail plans should stand up to whatever scrutiny federal transit officials bring.

Senator Dole was a mentor to Dorn, then the federal transit administrator who wrote the memo slamming TTA’s projections. They worked together at the federal labor and transportation departments and at the American Red Cross.

“Wasteful projects — if they don’t have the ridership necessary to justify the project, then they don’t receive the funding,” Dole said. “I have the greatest of confidence in Jenna [Dorn] … She is very thorough. She is very bright. The numbers have got to add up.”

TTA still hoped that Senator Dole would help. At TTA’s request, local business leaders, including developer and former Raleigh Mayor Smedes York and Fred Day, who ran Progress Energy in the Carolinas, had recently written Senator Elizabeth Dole urging her to push for the Triangle project.

October 9, 2005

2005 Oct 9 Raleigh Rapid Rail Transit 01

2005 Oct 9 Raleigh Rapid Rail Transit 02

December 15, 2005
Federal officials derailed plans for a commuter train line in the Triangle, saying the idea doesn’t meet government standards for funding.

December 15, 2005
Cary Town Council, in Wake County, despite the thumbs-down from federal officials voted  to go ahead with plans for two stations downtown. The Cary Town Council decided it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to a commuter rail. Members rezoned three acres downtown for a possible rail station and decided that even though the rail line is in question, if the system is built, the station will be ready.

March 22, 2006
The Triangle Transit Authority waited for the response of federal officials to the latest batch of information it submitted in support of a commuter rail line for the Triangle. Meanwhile, local officials were continuing to examine ways to increase ridership projections that could boost the $810 million project’s chances of getting federal money.

President Bush’s proposed 2007 budget did not include $485 million in federal funds requested for the project, which currently had a low rating because Federal Transit Administration officials decided it failed to meet cost-effectiveness standards.

The FTA gave the rail project a September 30, 2006 deadline to meet those standards and have a chance of federal funds in the next budget. Don Carnell, TTA’s director of planning and engineering, told the TTA Board of Trustees all the additional information requested by the FTA — including maps, cost information and projected user benefits — was submitted late the previous month.

July 24, 2006
The Triangle Transit Authority suspended two contracts for the increasingly improbable regional rail system and terminated a third to cut costs.

TTA staff expected the moves, which were effective June 30, 2006, to save the agency between $10.5 million and $12.5 million over the fiscal year.

The two suspended contracts were with Parsons Brinckerhoff, the general engineering consultant that would have made $8 million to $9 million, and Niles Bolton Associates (Atlanta based architecture firm), which was going to be paid $2 million to $3 million for rail station design work.

The TTA hoped that by suspending rather than canceling the contracts, the work would not have to be rebid should the agency get some unexpected good news regarding federal funding for the rail project.

The terminated contract was with a firm named Paco Group Inc., which would have acted as a project manager, monitoring the other two firms to make sure deadlines were met and the budget was kept within guidelines. That contract was worth $500,000 for the coming year.

Atlanta-based Niles Bolton shuttered its small Raleigh-Durham office due to the suspension of the contract.

Parsons Brinckerhoff shifted the employees that it had working on the TTA rail project to its Triangle area Morrisville office, where they would work on other projects.

August 18, 2006
The Triangle Transit Authority withdrew its bid for federal approval to build a 28-mile, $810 million rail transit line for Raleigh, Durham and Research Triangle Park.

TTA officials said they would not be able to meet a September 30, 2006 deadline to satisfy the Federal Transit Administration’s criticism that construction costs were too high and the likely number of train riders too low to justify the request for federal funds to cover 60 percent of the project cost.

June 1, 2007
In August 2006, TTA announced that it would not file a “New Starts” report on the Regional Rail Transit Project with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for Federal FY 2008.

TTA, the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization (DCHC), Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO), Triangle J Council of Governments (TJCOG), NC Department of Transportation and Regional Transportation Alliance began to work with the community as the began to rethink transit in the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham area).

April 27, 2008
Committee Suggests $8 Billion Investment in Transit

A blue-ribbon committee signed off on a report that calls on local, state and federal officials to invest $8.2 billion in a regional transit system over the next 27 years.

The report from the Special Transit Advisory Commission called for beefed-up local and regional bus service in an area extending through the Triangle and beyond, to Alamance, Chatham, Granville, Franklin and Johnston counties.

To help finance the proposal, members of the panel suggest imposing of a halfpercent sales tax surcharge on retail purchases throughout the Triangle and a $10 increase region-wide in vehicle-registration fees.

They believed the sales-tax surcharge would raise nearly $5 billion over the next 27 years and the increased vehicle fee would add another $458 million.

Triangle Transit Authority General Manager David King said he hoped area officials can organize a referendum on the sales tax as early as November 2009.

The surcharge would parallel one voters in Mecklenburg County approved in 1998 to finance a rail system in Charlotte.

Panel members also recommend continuing a 5 percent tax on car rentals.

Spring 2008
After 15 years as TTA, Triangle Transit Authority became Triangle Transit with a new logo.
Triangle Transit Logo Change

Triangle Transit also unveiled the new buses that with the blue, green and orange look of the renamed agency.

Old buses with original Triangle Transit Authority color scheme and original logo
Triangle Transit old bus design

Triangle Transit old bus

New buses with new color scheme and new logo
Triangle Transit bus

Triangle Transit

December 2010
A future commuter rail service stretching east-west across the Triangle, with stops in Raleigh along the way, gained the support of Raleigh’s City Council and one of its appointed boards.

The Raleigh City Council endorsed a resolution of its Passenger Rail Task Force that supports the proposed service, which was being studied by the North Carolina Railroad Co. North Carolina Railroad examined the corridor from Greensboro east to Goldsboro. It found the sweet spot in that area was from Johnston County to roughly Mebane, and a line there could carry as many as 11,000 people per day by 2022.

February 09, 2011
Triangle Transit picked favored routes for rail-transit lines from UNC Hospitals, through Durham and on to the Wake/Johnston County line, in preparation for three county referenda on a new sales tax for transit. Durham and Chapel Hill would be connected by a “light rail” line with a western terminus at UNC Hospitals and eastern at Alston Avenue near the Durham Freeway.

February 15, 2011
The Wake Board of Commissioners announced that they would postpone holding a ballot referendum to fund a regional public transit system.

November 2011
Voters in the general election made Durham County the second community in the state of North Carolina with the authority to levy a half-percent, local-option sales tax to pay for an expansion of public transit. The Durham County transit levy — one of two local-option taxes on the ballot — received 60.1 percent of the vote countywide. Money from it would pay first for added bus service in Durham, and later would finance work on two rail systems. Commuter rail lines would use existing railroad lines to connect Durham with Raleigh and eastern Wake County. The second, more expensive, plan of the two would add a new light rail corridor.

June 2012
Orange Board of County Commissioners approved the Orange Bus/Rail Investment Plan and authorized a November 2012 referendum on a one-half cent sales tax to fund new and expanded transit improvements.

June 18, 2012
Wake County Commissioners put the brakes on a sales tax hike, for now. The half-cent sales tax would pay for projects that would connect Durham, Orange and Wake Counties. The plan includes doubling bus service, adding commuter trains on existing tracks and eventually light rail service. The Wake County commissioners voted 4-3 against holding a public hearing about the tax increase.

June 21, 2012
The city of Raleigh has landed a $21 million federal grant to begin work on a Grand Central-style train station planned in downtown’s warehouse district. The TIGER grant means the city can begin track and signal upgrades necessary for Amtrak trains to pull into the station, which would transform a vacant Dillon Supply building into a terminal with a spacious waiting hall.

The city asked for $60 million from the federal government as part of a joint application with N.C. Department of Transportation and Triangle Transit. The $21 million will go toward track improvements, with station renovations to come later. The new building would replace the city’s current Amtrak station, a cramped depot on Cabarrus Street.

July 14, 2012
Wake County Chairman Paul Coble and the Wake county commissioners’ majority held up indefinitely plans for better bus service and commuter rail when they voted 4-3 against a public hearing and referendum on Wake’s transit plan. The transit plan has been available since November 2011, yet the board majority has stalled any action on it or a ballot referendum.

November 6, 2012
Orange County voters approved a half-cent sales tax to help pay the local share of a $1.4 billion plan for better bus service and a light-rail route connecting Chapel Hill and Durham. Orange County voters went 59 to 41 percent for a half-cent sales tax increase to generate money for public transit.

The sales tax equals 5 cents on a $10 purchase but will not apply to gas, food, medicine, health care or housing costs.

David King, Triangle Transit general manager, said Orange County has joined Durham County in taking “a positive step to fund expanded transit.” Wake County has not finalized its part of the regional plan and did not hold a sales tax referendum this year.


Go Triangle Light Rail

Go Triangle Light Rail


November 12, 2013
The Raleigh News & Observer reported A visiting panel of transportation experts urged Wake County leaders to put aside the county’s long-range transit plan, focus on building better bus service and postpone talk of launching commuter trains and light rail service.

“You’re not large, yet,” said Sam R. Staley, a Florida State University economist associated with the Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank. “The mobility needs of most people in Wake County and most people in this region are still being served quite well by the existing transportation system.”

Commissioner Betty Lou Ward of Raleigh, a transit advocate who has chafed at the board’s refusal since 2011 to discuss the Wake plan, said later that the panelists’ caution on rail transit was sobering. But she said Wake leaders must push ahead now and develop a strong transit plan.

Wake County could invest now in the needed right of way to widen roads for bus-rapid transit lines, with the option to convert these lanes to light rail in future years. If the state Department of Transportation adds toll-express lanes to Interstate 40 – for drivers who would pay for a faster, less-congested drive – the same lanes also could provide faster trips for bus-rapid-transit riders, they said.

The Wake County commissioners’ Republican majority balked at joining Orange County and Durham County in approving transit investments and scheduling a referendum on the half-cent sales tax.

February 11, 2016
GoTriangle successfully completed the environmental work for light rail.

Plans for a proposed Durham-Orange Light Rail Line are moving forward after receiving federal approval.

The Federal Transit Administration and GoTriangle, the Research Triangle regional public transportation authority, issued a document stating that the environmental review of the project had been completed and issues about where to lay the tracks resolved.

The Federal Transit Administration recently signed the Final Environmental Impact Statement/Record of Decision.

By signing the Final Environmental Impact Statement/Record of Decision for the proposal, the Federal Transit Administration approved GoTriangle to begin engineering work during the planning phase of its project.

Local funds that make up the 25 percent local share continue to come in. Light rail is expected to be operating in Orange and Durham County by 2025-26.

In 2016, the North Carolina Republican dominated legislature put a cap of $500,000 on light-rail projects. Later, the North Carolina House, by a vote of 82-27, moved to lift the cap. The panel met 8 times since December 2015 and will meet again after the session ends to likely consider more meaty transportation funding recommendations for 2017. Any recommendations have to be approved by the full House and Senate before they reach Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk.

GoTriangle Logos

A unified metropolitan transit re-branding
Beginning March 25, 2015 the family of services will be called GoTransit. The N.C. Department of Transportation assisted with funds for the rebranding project. The new individual transit system names will be:

GoDurham (Durham Area Transit Authority -DATA)
GoRaleigh (Capital Area Transit -CAT)
GoTriangle (Triangle Transit Authority-TTA later became Triangle Transit)

Cary’s C-Tran will become GoCary in 2016.

Chapel Hill Transit will decide at a later date if it will change its name to GoChapel Hill.


GO Triangle new bus designs
Go Triangle new buses


GO Triangle bus

Go Triangle bus



GoRaleigh Bus

GoRaleigh bus



GoDurham bus

GoDurham bus




September 14, 2015
GoTriangle has a public review and comment period for the proposed 17-mile light-rail line on September 15, 2015 in Chapel Hill, and September 19, 2015 in Durham. Comments about a draft Environmental Impact Statement for the plan will be accepted through October 13, 2015 but only at public hearings and by GoTriangle, the regional transit agency leading the project.

GoTriangle Map

Go Triangle Light Rail

Go Triangle Light Rail

Go Triangle Light Rail



June 6, 2016
The Wake County Board of Commissioners decided to put a referendum on the November ballot to raise the local sales tax rate by a half-cent to pay for mass transit projects. The unanimous vote came shortly after the commissioners adopted a $2.3 billion transit plan for the county.
The transit plan calls for a 37-mile commuter rail line linking Raleigh and other points in Wake County with Research Triangle Park and Durham, where it would tie in with another proposed rail project between Durham and Chapel Hill. The plan also would expand bus routes across Wake County and increase the frequency of buses operating on some routes.

September 27, 2016
Cary’s C-Tran rebranded to GoCary starting October 1, 2016 joining other transit systems in the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham metropolitan area) that were rebranded in 2015. New, higher capacity buses were added to Cary’s Routes 3, 4, 5 and 6.

November 8, 2016
Wake County voters opted for a half-cent increase to the local sales tax rate Tuesday to help fund an expansion of public bus and train services. The measure passed with a 53 percent favor.
The increased funds will contribute to multiple upgrades and initiatives to the public transportation system, including a 37-mile commuter rail line from Garner to Durham, with stops in Raleigh, Cary, Morrisville and Research Triangle Park.
Voters in Orange and Durham counties approved similar sales tax increases in 2011 and 2012, respectively, for their own transit projects.

December 19, 2016
The Federal Transit Administration has approved adding a station at N.C. Central University as part of the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project, according to GoTriangle.
With the station at NCCU, which enrolls 8,000 students, the 17.7-mile rail line will stretch from UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill to NCCU in Durham, connecting three major universities. The entire rail line is expected to support about 26,880 passenger trips per day by 2040.
The approval followed an environmental assessment and public comment period on the proposed extension.

December 21, 2016
The News & Observer
The Durham City Council unanimously approved a letter of support for the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project, signaling its continued backing as local governments are being asked to help garner millions more for the project.
The letter includes a commitment to work with Durham County to identify additional local funding for the project. In recent weeks, regional transit agency GoTriangle has asked Orange County to help find up to $40 million more in local funding and Durham County to help find up to $135 million.
The money would be paid over a 10-year period to help fill a $254 million funding gap in the $1.87 billion project.
Initially the light-rail plan called for the state covering 25 percent of the cost or $467 million. The legislature has since capped state support of such projects at 10 percent.
Orange and Durham county commissioners both approved non-binding letters of intent earlier this month.
GoTriangle needs the governments’ letters in an application to the Federal Transit Administration due Dec. 31 in order to move the project into engineering. The application must include commitments for at least 30 percent of the local and state cost. If the commitments aren’t included, it could make the project less competitive in the process to receive federal dollars.

April 25, 2017
The Herald Sun
Durham County approved a revised cost-sharing agreement for the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project on Monday that would shrink both Durham and Orange counties’ share of the $3.3 billion project and push it one step closer to reality.
The Durham County commissioners’ vote was the first of several that will be needed before the plan is submitted by the Federal Transit Administration’s April 30, 2017 deadline.

Under an earlier plan, Durham County would have picked up 82 percent of the project’s nearly $1.9 billion local costs and Orange County would have picked up 18 percent. But Orange County wanted to renegotiate how much it was willing to pay.
Under the revised plan, approved Monday night, Durham County would pay 81.5 percent of the local cost, or about $1.55 billion, and Orange County would pay 16.5 percent, or roughly $316 million. Each county is expected to pay its share with money from a half-cent transit sales tax, car rental fees and vehicle registration fees.
A public-private Funding and Community Collaborative offered to pay the remaining 2 percent through donations of cash and land for the rail system. The group, which has pledges for $18 million in land, has set a goal of raising $100 million in cash and land. The group’s 2 percent share is not guaranteed.
GoTriangle is also setting up a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to reach out to individuals, private companies and foundations for additional donations, said John Tallmadge, director of GoTriangle’s Regional Services Development Department. All of the money needs to be collected by the middle of 2019, when GoTriangle applies for federal grant money.

The Orange County Board of Commissioners plans to vote Thursday, April 27, on moving the light-rail project forward.

April 27, 2017
The News & Observer
GoTriangle got the final two votes needed Friday to keep the Durham-Orange Light-Rail Transit project moving through the Federal Transit Administration’s grant process.
The $3.3 billion light-rail project, if fully funded, would link 18 stations along a 17.7-mile rail line between UNC Hospitals and N.C. Central University. Six stations would be in Chapel Hill and 12 in the city of Durham.

The Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization and the GoTriangle Board of Trustees voted Friday to approve Durham County’s and Orange County’s revised transit plans and their new cost-sharing agreement.
GoTriangle now will ask the FTA to approve engineering work on the plans, which need federal money to pay half of the light-rail construction cost and state money to pay up to 10 percent.

Votes followed less than two hours of discussion and two 5-2 votes at the Orange County Board of Commissioners meeting.
Wake-Durham counties Commuter Rail Transit (CRT)
37 miles of CRT would be in place from Garner to downtown Raleigh, North Carolina State University, Cary, Morrisville, the Research Triangle Park and continuing to downtown Durham’s light rail station.
Up to 8 trips would run in each direction during peak hours;
One to two trips would run each way during midday and evening hours; and
Will leverage the bus network to connect riders with key destinations like Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

July 31, 2017
Durham and Orange Counties’ light rail project received approval from the Federal Transit Administration to advance into the Engineering phase of the federal Capital Investment Grant Program, on July 28, 2017.

GoTriangle proposes to implement a 17.8-mile Light Rail Transit (LRT) line in the corridor that extends from the University of North Carolina Hospital in the Town of Chapel Hill to North Carolina Central University in the City of Durham. The proposed project will include 18 stations, approximately 4,400 parking spaces, a maintenance facility and the purchase of 18 LRT vehicles. The project’s current estimated cost is $2,476.30 million (Year of Expenditure). GoTriangle expects to seek $1,238.15 million (Year of Expenditure) from the New Starts program.

Both ends of the corridor have central business districts, large medical facilities, and universities that serve as major employment centers for the region. Major trip generators in the corridor include: University of North Carolina; North Carolina Central University; Duke University; Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center; Durham Amtrak Station; Durham Performing Arts Center; Durham Station; and fast growing downtown Durham.

GoTriangle expects to receive a Full Funding Grant Agreement in January 2020, and start revenue service in 2028, or 11 years from now.

June 1, 2018
The Republican-controlled North Carolina General Assembly gave final approval to its 2018-2019 budget spending plan through a process that allowed for no input or amendments from Democrats.

The FTA authorized the Durham-Orange light rail project to enter its final design phase. That positioned the project to apply at the end of this year for $1.2 billion from the federal government, or half the project’s cost.

The budget contains one provision that could kill the Durham-Orange light rail project. The provision says a light rail project will not get any state funds until non-state funds are secured.

“This is problematic because the Federal Transit Administration will commit 50 percent of a large transit project’s cost only after state, local and other funds have been committed for the other half,” said Mike Charbonneau, Director of Communications with GoTriangle.

GoTriangle’s Durham-Orange light rail will link major employment centers from the UNC Chapel Hill campus/UNC Hospitals to Duke University/Duke University Hospital, downtown Durham and North Carolina Central University in Durham.

Wake County voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase to finance transit in the fall of 2016. This transit tax supporters a Bus Rapid Transit Plan and a more frequent traditional bus service. The plan also includes a commuter rail line from Garner through downtown Raleigh, Cary and Research Triangle Park to downtown Durham. The commuter rail would connect with the Durham-Orange light rail.

Click map images to enlarge. Click your return arrow to return to this page. 

February 27, 2019
Durham council member proposes eminent domain if Duke opposes light rail right-of-way
DURHAM- Duke faculty, on the eve of a critical decision, called Tuesday night on university leaders to support the $3.3 billion Durham-Orange Light-Rail project.

A Durham City Council member also floated the idea of taking Duke land for the light-rail project by eminent domain.

March 18, 2019
Durham Dreamed of a Transit Line. Duke University All but Killed It.
DURHAM, N.C. — Political leaders in one of the most progressive parts of the South have dreamed for two decades about an ambitious plan for a transit line connecting Durham, the home of Duke University, with nearby Chapel Hill. Funds were pledged and renderings were drawn.

But in recent days, Duke, which has labored to turn around its reputation as a privileged cloister, has brought the plan to a shrieking halt. It unilaterally rejected the proposed light-rail route, which would have cut across its property. And the resulting moral outrage has felt strong enough to power a train.

March 19, 2019
FTA rates Durham-Orange light-rail project ‘medium,’ calls financials ‘optimistic’

DURHAM – A Federal Transit Administration report posted Friday rated the Durham-Orange light-rail project “low” for its cost-effectiveness as GoTriangle and elected leaders wrestle with a growing construction budget and reluctant partners.

The project’s overall rating — for a second time — was “medium.”

The FTA rating scale has five levels, with “low” at the bottom. The FTA uses the ratings to judge whether a transit project is feasible and ready to be built. The ratings also will be used to determine whether the light-rail project gets $1.24 billion in federal grant money.

Click image below to enlarge. Click your return arrow return to this topic. 

November 18, 2021

GoTriangle, the agency that is planning the train line that would connect the region’s largest cities with Research Triangle Park, is holding a virtual question-and-answer session on November 18, 2021. Planners talked about possible locations for stations and park-and-ride lots along the route and answered questions submitted online during the presentation. The trains would follow the existing North Carolina Railroad line from the west side of Durham through RTP, Morrisville, Cary and Raleigh and continue east to either Garner or Clayton.

March 11, 2022

Durham Light Rail Where Is The Money

Durham Light Rail Where Is The Money

Durham Light Rail Where Is The Money

Durham Light Rail Money Spent On Failed Project 2022

May 2, 2022
GoTriangle spent $157 million on failed light rail project

Durham Light Rail Money Spent 2022

Durham Light Rail 2022

Video: Greater Triangle Commuter Rail Webinar Recording

Raleigh Durham 2020 Map

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