In response to a number of follow-up questions, GoTriangle would like to clarify some information related to the presentation to the Orange County Assembly of Governments on Thursday November 17:
Durham and Orange counties are being asked to provide non-binding letters of intent to work with GoTriangle and other community partners to identify funds to complete the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit (D-O LRT) Project. The counties are not being asked to invest any additional funds for the project at this time.
The letters will be included with GoTriangle’s application to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) in December to move the project into the engineering phase. (*See below the updated project timeline, presented to the Orange County Assembly of Governments)
The two counties will review and approve updated county transit plans with updated planned revenue assumptions in April 2017. By June of 2018, Durham and Orange counties would have to formally decide whether to commit any additional local funds required to complete their light rail project or decide not to proceed.
The FTA is still expected to invest 50% in federal funds in Durham and Orange counties’ light rail transit project, contingent on the remaining 50% coming from state, local or other funding sources.
"These letters are an opportunity for Orange and Durham counties to show the Federal Transit Administration that we still want to build our regional light-rail project and that together our counties are committed to working with GoTriangle and other partners to help secure the remaining funds for the project so the federal government will provide half of the total investment," said Orange County Commissioner and GoTriangle board member Bernadette Pelissier. "At this stage our two county boards of commissioners are pledging support to continue the project, not earmarking any specific funds for it. If we fail to tell the FTA now that we remain actively engaged in the planning and funding process, we risk losing millions of federal dollars and this critical transportation project."
In 2016, the North Carolina General Assembly capped available state funding for light rail transit at 10% of a project’s cost, as opposed to the 25% that the legislature previously awarded to two light rail projects in Charlotte. With
10% state funding, using additional available funds from the dedicated transit revenue approved in 2012, extending the construction schedule to open light rail in 2028 instead of 2026, and making changes in proposed financing, the project currently faces a total funding gap of approximately $250 million.
In 2011 and 2012, voters and community leaders in Durham and Orange counties approved a half-cent sales tax and increased vehicle registration fees to support transit initiatives, including the D-O LRT Project. At the time of these votes, light rail projects in North Carolina were funded with 50% federal participation, 25% state funds, and a 25% local share.
GoTriangle helped organize a Funding and Community Collaborative made up of leaders from local universities, health care institutions, government, and the private sector. The Collaborative is working to help secure additional funds for the project through right-of-way donations from public and private partners and seeking funds from private entities, endowments, and foundations. These funds and additional project savings will be incorporated into the project budget before the counties invest any additional money for the project.
The D-O LRT Project is vital transportation infrastructure that will support 23,000 passenger trips per day by 2040 along the 17-mile alignment; provide an alternative to sitting in traffic; connect to local and regional bus service, which enhances mobility for more people, including those without access to a car; complement local plans to focus compact development; manage and channel future growth at station areas; and support and promote economic development.
For more information, contact Brad Schulz at 919-485-7434 or Mike Charbonneau at 919-485-7413.