The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday October 17th

Carrboro on board with light rail project despite funding concerns

They will, however, help to pay for it.

The proposed 17.7-mile-long project has 18 stops – none of which will serve Carrboro or western Orange County.

There will be four stops in Orange County — UNC Hospitals, Mason Farm Road, Hamilton Road and Friday Center Drive — according to Geoffrey Green, a transit planner with GoTriangle.

Sammy Slade, a member of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, said he was concerned with the funding structure after the state decreased funding of light rail projects from 25 percent to 10 percent of the total cost.

Now, 40 percent of the costs will be paid for by local funds from Durham and Orange counties, Green said, meaning it could be factored into sales tax or vehicle registration fees — which Orange County voters approved in 2012.

“I’m just wanting to make sure that whatever is identified, as to how that gap will be filled, is as accurate and as trustworthy as possible,” Slade said. “The new analysis depends on a bright future for sales tax, and it’s not clear to me if they are assessing the worst-case scenario along with that bright scenario.”

Slade, however, said he thinks the project will be good for Carrboro in the long run and hopes the light rail service can one day be extended to Carrboro.

“There’s been a white paper written about how (an extension) could be done,” Slade said. “That was written after the early presentations of this plan. I asked if they could speak to how it may connect to Carrboro in the future, so they wrote the white paper showing how that could happen.”

Board of Aldermen member Randee Haven-O’Donnell expressed concerns about the light rail due to the change in the funding.

“My responsibility is to Carrboro citizens, and I want to be sure they know what has changed,” she said. “Because many — most of the folks in Orange County — voted for the transit tax. But the half-cent transit tax would have to be augmented with a sales tax and with a vehicle tax in order for the county to pay its share.”

Haven-O’Donnell said the benefits to Carrboro from the light rail project would be indirect. She said bus service may increase, along with frequency and length of service.

“I wanna be sure that folks know what it is that they will be paying for, and if it’s okay with them, that’s fine,” she said. “But they need to be informed and not feel, after the decision is made and the county moves forward, that they were not well-informed.”

Carrboro resident Erin Miller said she liked the idea in theory but was concerned by the cost.

“I wonder if (the money) would be better used to expand more of our bus systems for those (taxpayers) to go more places or more frequently to places they normally go between,” she said.

Despite the concerns, Green said he’s been pleased by the community’s response.

“The light rail project is probably the largest single infrastructure project in Chapel Hill’s history, and as with any major infrastructure project, there are a wide range of opinions about it, including both excitement and concern,” he said.



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