The Durham and Orange counties' Light Rail Project has hit some bumps in the road. In the past two weeks, GoTriangle has received a draft of a Federal Transit Administration risk report and a refusal from Duke University to officially sign on to the project.
GoTriangle received the FTA draft report, which detailed some unresolved concerns, on Feb. 26. Lingering issues included the budget for the approximately 18-mile project and the schedule, which could be potentially thrown off course by Duke’s concerns about the planned rail line by their medical facilities on Erwin Road in Durham.
The report recommended the project’s budget be set to at least $2.5 billion due to increasing construction costs and recent changes.
The report delivered some good news, however, saying GoTriangle had been “diligent” in understanding potential risks and stressed the importance of staying on schedule with the project. GoTriangle Director of Marketing and Communications, Mike Charbonneau, said once the draft was sent to the project team, they have 20 days to respond to the FTA with any corrections to their information. Once they respond, the FTA will release a final report.
The day after GoTriangle received this draft letter, Duke administrators announced they would not sign agreements for the project, voicing concerns about how the trains could affect medical care in the proposed areas for the lines.
In response, CEO of GoTriangle Jeff Mann and chairperson of the GoTriangle Board of Trustees Ellen Reckhow wrote to Duke, asking them to agree to mediation.
“The lack of cooperative agreement with Duke creates significant challenges for the Light-Rail Project, effectively nullifying two decades of work,” the letter read.
The letter voiced frustrations that Duke’s concerns had not been discussed during the process to establish an Environmental Impact Statement in 2015. They addressed each of Duke’s concerns separately, including electromagnetic interference with medical machinery, vibration effects from the construction, disruption to power and utilities and liability. The letter emphasized GoTriangle’s continued dedication to partnering with Duke, and the hopes that these concerns can be mediated.
Individuals have also voiced concerns about the future of the project and frustration with delays.