End of the line: GoTriangle recommends discontinuing Durham-Orange light-rail project

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The GoTriangle Board of Trustees voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend that the Durham-Orange light-rail project be abandoned.

The board acted on the recommendation of GoTriangle President and CEO Jeff Mann.

In a statement, Mann said:

"The light-rail project has been considered the spine of Durham and Orange counties' transit plans since Durham voters in 2011 and Orange voters in 2012 approved a half-cent sales tax to invest in significant public transit improvements. As we've stated many times, the project would create and support tens of thousands of new jobs and infuse billions of dollars into our local and state economies. The final, approved light-rail alignment connects three of the top 10 employers in the state and three major hospitals as well as UNC, Duke and North Carolina Central University.

"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.

Unfortunately, this project has recently faced a number of significant challenges, most notably Duke University's refusal to sign necessary agreements with GoTriangle."

The nearly 18-mile track would have connected North Carolina Central University, downtown Durham, Duke Hospital and UNC.

Some residents lamented the demise of the project.

On Wednesday, community groups reacted with disappointment to the news.

Today's decision by the GoTriangle Board regarding the Durham Orange Light Rail Transit (DOLRT) project represents a tragic loss for the Durham and Orange County communities," said a joint statement by Coalition for Affordable Housing and Transit, Orange County Transit Advocates/NEXT Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Durham Congregations in Action, and Board of the Durham Housing Authority. "A vital and needed investment in transit infrastructure will not be made, and 10 years of work and over $130 million in local tax dollars will have failed to produce the benefits so many counted on."

Congressman Daivd Price also weighed in Wednesday evening, expressing his "profound" disappointment.

"Voters, businesses, and government leaders overwhelmingly supported this project because they know that multimodal transit is essential to our region's economic vitality and quality of life," Price said in a statement. "With the Triangle growing and developing rapidly, we cannot afford to sit on our hands and watch as our roads clog with traffic and prospective employers choose to locate elsewhere. Unfortunately, for now we have been stymied by unreasonable conditions imposed by the General Assembly and by the failure of essential participants to reach agreement.

"As the Chairman of the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, I am committed to working with local leaders to move beyond this historic setback and determine how to address our region's transportation needs," he added. "Doing so will require all stakeholders to put the long-term interests of our communities ahead of the narrow concerns that doomed this project."
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