The proposed State Senate budget, like the House version, removes a $500 thousand cap on light rail projects that was inserted late last session, but the Senate version also adds new restrictive provisions that would further compromise the integrity of the Strategic Transportation Investments law, and put the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit (DOLRT) project in jeopardy from both a timing and funding standpoint.
The new Senate provisions would:
- Limit the state investment in any passenger rail project to a maximum of 10 percent of the total project cost.
- Require the DOLRT project to go back through the STI scoring process in two years, to try to compete again for the $138 million that the state previously programmed for the project.
“We appreciate efforts to remove the light rail cap, and we are optimistic that the remaining budget language will be adjusted to protect the integrity of the Strategic Transportation Investments Law, and allow us to continue securing the federal funding needed to deliver projects that will help relieve congestion and better connect people to jobs, education, healthcare and other services,” said GoTriangle General Manager Jeff Mann.
The state previously programmed $138 million for the first ten years of the DOLRT project after it scored highly through the transportation funding formula in 2015, under the Strategic Transportation Investments (STI) law, which is designed to take politics out of transportation planning by ranking projects based on congestion relief, safety and economic competitiveness. Federal funding, which makes up half the project, is dependent on this state investment. The North Carolina Department of Transportation says, following STI law, the full $138 million for the DOLRT project will be reprogrammed when the cap is officially lifted.
“The Durham-Orange Light Rail will provide an important new travel option along our heavily congested corridors of I-40, NC 54 and US 15-501 and enhance the quality of life for residents by giving them more predictable travel times to work, school, home and doctors’ appointments, with less time spent in traffic,” said GoTriangle Board Chairman and Durham Mayor William V. “Bill” Bell. “Additional road widening alone is not a viable option to reduce current congestion and plan ahead for the rapid growth, which also brings new economic and job opportunities.”
About the Durham-Orange Light Rail Project
- When completed, the Durham-Orange light rail is projected to move about 23-thousand people a day (6.7 million a year) along a 17 mile stretch of the busy corridor, helping take thousands of cars off the already congested roads during peak travel times.
- The Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project will provide greater access to jobs, education, and healthcare. Passengers will have direct access on the light rail line, without looking for limited parking, to:
- 3 of the top 10 employers in the state
- The University of North Carolina (UNC) Hospitals in Chapel Hill
- Durham Veterans Administration (VA) and Duke University Medical Centers
- Downtown Durham employers, services, entertainment and retail
- The Durham-Orange Light Rail Project is an investment in creating more jobs and strengthening our state’s economy. An independent economic analysis found the project will:
- Support 20,000 new jobs within rail station areas and an additional 10,000 jobs outside of rail stations in Durham and Orange counties.
- Create several thousand more jobs in 14 other counties that comprise the Research Triangle area and 1,300 additional jobs in other counties across the state.
- Add $175 Million in new state and local tax revenues per year
- Add $4.7 Billion to Durham and Orange Counties’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year
- Add $600 million to North Carolina’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year