by Bob Geary
I know y'all were planning to get to the next round of TTA transit planning sessions starting March 22, but just to whet your appetite:
I've heard it twice now from well-informed Raleigh officials that the TTA's latest scheme for getting light-rail transit through downtown Raleigh is to go OVER the Boylan Avenue Bridge. (As someone just said on an email thread, you mean under? No, I mean over.)
[TTA's response, according to a spokesman, is that they aren't proposing any single option to serve downtown Raleigh but rather a series of alternatives. "Ultimately, it’s up to elected officials and the general public to help guide the decision-making progress to come up with the best alternative for light-rail or commuter rail in downtown Raleigh."
That's why everyone who cares about this subject should attend one or more of the March workshops, the TTA says.
Starting March 22, all the various alternatives will be posted at the TTA's project website, www.ourtransitfuture.com.
The key point in all this would be to bring the light-rail line out of the main rail corridor from just east of NCSU to the proposed Union Station in downtown Raleigh, which would be located in the West Side (a.k.a. Depot) district just north of the current Amtrak station.
If the light-rail line departs the corridor (in other words, isn't running on tracks in the corridor any more), then the issue becomes:
* Does it run on tracks in a street? (Say, West Morgan Street, as the city's Passenger Rail Task Force recommends.)
* Does it go up in the air and go over at least some of the streets on a dedicated flyway?
Why does the llght-rail line need to come out of the corridor? It doesn't, and early plans called for a heavier version of rail transit (using so-called DMU cars) to stay in the corridor all the way into downtown Raleigh. But that meant light-rail would get mixed up with all the other trains using the Boylan "Wye" — mainly freight trains with priority status — calling for an expensive widening of the corridor itself.
Also, the corridor ain't exactly in the middle of downtown, which is fine for freight cars but not so hot for passenger transit.
Long story short, the thinking then became, use a true light-rail system that can run on streets as well as railroad tracks, and shoot it directly into the heart of downtown via either West Morgan Street or West Hargett Street.
Where the new new idea came from to put the light-rail system up in the air over the Boylan Avenue Bridge, I'm not sure. Something about it going faster and not getting caught in downtown traffic, is what I've heard. Anyway, if that's the solution, the rail bridge would cross over Boylan Avenue just south of Andy Leager's Boylan Ave. Brewpub — and a block or so north of Mayor Charles Meeker's house.
At this point, it should be said that whatever the TTA brings forward in March, it will be in the form of alternatives for public discussion, not a final plan. So mark your calendars. Here's the schedule from the TTA:
SPREAD THE WORD: THIRD ROUND OF TRANSIT PLANNING PUBLIC WORKSHOPS!
Seven public workshops have been scheduled for March 22 - 31 around the Triangle to present the corridors, alignments, and station locations for public feedback. The workshops will be run 'open house, drop in' style with information displays, staff to answer questions, and looping videos. There is no single presentation time. Here are the locations and venues of the third and final round of public workshops during the Alternatives Analysis:
Tue, Mar 22, 4 - 7 PM | Triangle Town Center, space 1001, next to Dillard's, Triangle Town Blvd, RALEIGH.
Wed, Mar 23, 4 - 7 PM | Durham Station Transportation Ctr, 515 W. Pettigrew St., DURHAM.
Thu, Mar 24, 4- 7 PM | The Friday Center, 100 Friday Center Drive, CHAPEL HILL.
Mon, Mar 28, 6 - 9 PM | Mt. Peace Baptist Church.1601 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., SOUTHEAST RALEIGH.
Tue, Mar 29, 4-7 PM | Cary Senior Center in Bond Park, 120 Maury O'Dell Place, High House Rd. between Cary Parkway and NW Maynard Rd, CARY.
Wed, Mar 30, 4-7 PM | McKimmon Center, NCSU, 1101 Gorman St, RALEIGH.
Thu, Mar 31, 4-7 PM | RTP Foundation, 12 Davis Drive, RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK.