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The Daily Tar Heel

Public weighs in on Durham-Orange light rail

Triangle Transit, which is heading the project, held four meetings between Nov. 18 and Nov. 20 in Durham and Chapel Hill to allow public comment on the proposed route, which will be completed by 2025 and funded by sales taxes and money from state and federal agencies.

In 2012, Orange County voters approved a half-cent sales tax that will finance the $1.4 billion project.

Felix Nwoko, transportation engineer at the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization, is hopeful the light rail will alleviate congestion.

“The commuters will definitely see a change when it comes to traffic when they are trying to get to work,” Nwoko said.

“We also hope that it will be a welcome alternative for residents who do not have cars.”

Nwoko said he hopes that the light rail will be able to balance transportation so people do not always have to rely on their cars and the freeway to get them to their jobs and then home again.

Freshman Erin Harris is from Durham and goes home most weekends — she said she often faces significant traffic when commuting between the University and her hometown.

“I could get home in 15 minutes or an hour and a half, it all depends on how congested the roads are,” Harris said.

Though Harris will have graduated by the time the rail is in use, she said it will be highly beneficial for frequent commuters.

“The light rail would be a perfect way to avoid all the traffic and hassle involved,” she said.

The light rail will pass through parts of Chapel Hill — and its closest stop will be near UNC Hospitals.

“The University is not receiving a lot of consideration by the people building the rails,” said Daniel Rodriguez, a UNC professor of sustainable community design.

The path of the light rail has been determined by weighing a number of factors — including cost, feasibility for commuters and environmental impacts.

Rodriguez said the light rail will not only contribute to reduced congestion but should also reduce pollution.

He said he expects to see an improvement in air quality as well as development of the land near the stations.

“More people on the train means less cars on the roads emitting pollution,” he said.

But Rodriguez said he wished the light rail were more convenient for UNC students, faculty and employees.

“We are missing a perfect opportunity for the University to ally itself with the private sector,” Rodriguez said. “The light rail will mean a new closeness and accessibility for many areas of the Research Triangle.”

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