The GoTriangle Board of Trustees recommended a discontinuation of the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project Wednesday, bringing a halt to a decades-long transit initiative.
GoTriangle CEO Jeff Mann made the suggestion during a Board of Trustees meeting that discussed the future of the light rail. While the project was conceived as a way to connect Chapel Hill and Durham residents with one another and provide a link between UNC, Duke University and North Carolina Central University, rising costs and growing opposition contributed to a number of obstacles.
Following Mann’s recommendation, the board unanimously voted for other stakeholders in Durham and Orange counties to put an end to the light rail.
“Over the years, the two counties have used this approved light-rail alignment as a basis for land-use, economic development and affordable housing plans to best accommodate the more than 7,000 people the counties are adding each year,” Mann said in a statement about the decision. “Unfortunately, this project has recently faced a number of significant challenges, most notably Duke University’s refusal to sign necessary agreements with GoTriangle.”
The GoTriangle communications team did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Daily Tar Heel.
GoTriangle received a report from the Federal Transit Administration in February that said an additional $237 million in costs needed to be incorporated to receive any state funding for the light rail. Federal funding needed to be secured by Nov. 30, and non-federal funding by April 30.
Duke administrators wrote to GoTriangle March 7 that they would no longer be involved in negotiations surrounding the light rail project. The letter mentioned electromagnetic interference and construction vibrations as potential public safety risks at the proposed stop on Erwin Road.
UNC Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and UNC Health Care CEO Wesley Burks said in a statement that they are disappointed in the recommendation.
“We still believe that mass transit is vital to the continued growth of the region and that viable options exist,” the statement.