As the Triangle's job market booms, is the area ready for a commuter rail? Transportation leader says 'yes'

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- As big businesses such as Google and Apple continue plans to set up shop in the Triangle, it begs the question, 'Is the greater Raleigh-Durham area ready for a commuter rail?'

The plan has been long debated in the Triangle's history and as the state's capital continues to attract large companies, it fuels an already booming housing market. And with more people moving to the area, that means more traffic for popular roadways like Interstate-40 and NC-147.

With more than 650,000 people slated to move to the Triangle in the next 10 to 20 years, Charles Lattuca, president and CEO of GoTriangle, said he believes it is time for the region to begin making the next steps to expansion.

Ready for Rail NC, a project lead by GoTriangle, is looking to provide an extra form of transportation: a commuter railway.

The train is estimated to carry 7,500 to 10,000 passengers a day and return $5 billion in GDP and 50,000 jobs over 20 years for every $1 billion invested, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

The current proposal for 16 station sites would start in west Durham (less than a mile from Duke University Hospital) and run all the way down to Clayton (within two miles of downtown Clayton and less than a mile from Caterpillar Inc.). Within that 37-mile stretch, the railway would make stops in Raleigh, the Research Triangle Park, Cary, Morrisville, Garner and NC State.

Check here for a detailed look at the interactive map

"We want to ensure the Triangle is a great place to live and work and have recreation and the only way to do that is have alternatives in how people can get around," Lattuca told ABC11. "Highways are good, but you need mass transit you can't just build yourself out of the problem of not having enough capacity."

Advocates say not only would the rail be cost-efficient, but it would also lower the area's carbon footprint by cutting down the number of private commuters.

While the proposal may still be in its early stages, Lattuca says the infrastructure is already there, "Right now, we're looking at the corridor that already exists. It's the North Carolina Railroad corridor, it's a 200-foot corridor that transects every major urban part of the region."

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With Apple's recent announcement of some 3,000 jobs to Research Triangle Park, it begs the question if the Triangle's infrastructure can keep up with the current and projected growth.

Should the project make headway, it is expected to cost somewhere between $1.4 billion to $2.1 billion

The proposal would still have to be approved by county commissioners in a vote next year. Even then, there are still two years for an environmental assessment.

"We're not building to solve today's problems, we're building it to solve tomorrow's problems," Lattuca said.

Shovels would not officially hit the ground until 2025.
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