A new train station could connect Hillsborough to two major metropolitan cities if federal funding is approved, but it could come with a tax increase for residents.
The Hillsborough Town Board authorized Mayor Tom Stevens to request a portion of newly available federal funds for a rail station Monday.
The request, which will be sent to the N.C. Department of Transportation, will include details about the station to be constructed at Orange Grove Street.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that $2.4 billion in stimulus funds had been returned by the state of Florida. The money — which would have been used for the proposed Tampa-Orlando high-speed rail line — now will be divided up based on a competitive application process that has been opened to transportation departments in all 50 states.
“We are working very closely with the DOT to make sure that our grant gets included in other grant requests,” Stevens said.
Hillsborough Town Manager Eric Peterson said the estimated cost of the station, which would be located along the Charlotte-to-Raleigh high-speed rail system, is $5.9 million.
If the funding request is granted, the town and state transportation department have each committed to pay for 10 percent of the project. The other 80 percent would be covered by the grant.
But if the town receives the funds for the station, residents will likely see an increase in taxes. The addition of one cent to the tax rate would be necessary to cover the amount the town would need to borrow for its 10 percent match.
Maintenance costs of about $50,000 per year would also add another three-quarters of a cent to the tax rate, Peterson said.
Town commissioner Eric Hallman said the access road to the property, which begins at the intersection of Orange Grove and Churton streets, would also have to be widened to build the station.
“If we had to make the road improvements without the help of the DOT, we would have to find some extra tax revenues,” Hallman said.
Last year the town submitted an identical grant request but put the project on hold after being denied $8 million in congressional funding.
Stevens said the station’s location near the downtown area would help the town increase the commercial tax base and is in line with alternative transportation goals.
“The main benefit is that it would probably be the hub for transit-oriented development, which becomes a huge economic engine for the prosperity of the town,” he said. “It would give people who commute toward Burlington and Greensboro the chance to travel by train.”
Peterson said the town would also contribute 20 acres of land it purchased nearly four years ago in anticipation of the project.
“We should know in about 90 days whether or not we’ll get funded,” Peterson said.
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