'It hurt a lot,' some say of Duke's rejection of light-rail project.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- South of downtown Durham, folks living near Fayetteville Road are disappointed that Duke University seemingly ended their hopes of getting a light-rail station.

"It hurt a lot," Kekajuane Sawyer said. The 47-year-old doesn't drive and relies on several buses to go to work and get around.

Sometimes, she said it can take hours just to run errands.

"Going to the doctor, going to the grocery store, simple things, shopping," Sawyer said.

People who would have used it out of convenience are also disappointed.

RELATED: Light rail fact sheet (.pdf)

"There are definitely times we'd use it to go back and forth to Chapel Hill and Durham," said Stephen Mutz of Durham.

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

Duke pulled out of the multi-million dollar deal citing infrastructure concerns.

Project leaders said the light rail would have brought economic development, jobs, connectivity and $600 million in revenue to the state.

But NC State economist Michael Walden disagrees.

"There are other ways. There are other options than a light rail system," Walden said.

Walden said he believes that the expansion or construction of new highways, bus routes and lanes could lure Fortune 500 companies.

RELATED: Light-rail project overview (.pdf)

Durham County leaders who support light rail disagree.

They say the big picture is to connect the Durham-Orange Counties light-rail project to a proposed commuter rail through Wake County. Thereby, alleviating traffic congestion and attracting workers.

"We have 120,000 people commuting into Durham each day," said Wendy Jacobs, chair of the Durham board of commissioners. "People don't pay attention to county lines. And that will continue unless our roads are so clogged it becomes an impediment to economic development."

Duke University insinuated that a deal may not be over saying improving transit in the community it serves is still a high priority. The university president Vincent Price said in a letter Thursday that "we recommit our time and attention to seeking innovative and sustainable solutions."

Durham leaders remain hopeful its relationship with Duke on the project will continue.

"From my perspective there is no reason to stop negotiating at this point," Jacobs said.
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