From GoTriangle General Manager Jeff Mann on the proposed budget announced last night at the General Assembly:
“We are disappointed by the new, restrictive light rail and commuter rail provisions inserted this legislative session that compromise the integrity of the data-driven transportation funding law passed in 2013, and create new funding and delivery challenges for the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project (DOLRT). The DOLRT project is critical transportation infrastructure that will move about 23-thousand people a day along a heavily congested 17-mile corridor, while creating thousands of new jobs and adding $175 Million in annual state and local tax revenue.
GoTriangle is currently evaluating all options and we will continue working with Durham and Orange County residents, our partners and the General Assembly to identify funding for the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project. We appreciate the hard work of our many project supporters, who understand that the DOLRT project will better connect all neighborhoods in the corridor to education; healthcare, including the Veterans hospital; and jobs, including direct access to three of the state’s top ten employers.”
- The new budget removes a $500 thousand cap on light rail projects that was inserted late last session, but also includes new, restrictive passenger rail provisions that would further compromise the integrity of the Strategic Transportation Investments law (the transparent, data-driven transportation funding process enacted in 2013 with broad bi-partisan support) and create new funding and timing challenges for the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit (DOLRT) project.
- The new light rail and commuter rail provisions:
- 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 scoring process in two years, to compete again for state funding.
- 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 factors including congestion relief, safety and economic competitiveness. Federal funding, which makes up about half the project, is dependent on state and local investment.
- The light rail project is an important part of Durham and Orange County’s long range transportation, growth and development plans and voters there approved a local half-cent sales tax in 2011 and 2012 to fund the local investment.
- 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 corridor, helping take thousands of cars off heavily congested roads including I-40, NC 54 and US 15-501.
- 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 comprises 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
- The project will contribute over $600 million in the production of additional goods and services statewide
GoTriangle improves our region’s quality of life by connecting people and places with safe, reliable, and easy to use travel choices.