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Rail route is blurry through downtown Raleigh

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See main story, "Transit plans moving again, but Wake commissioners an obstacle"

Two of the Triangle Transit Authority's three alternative alignments for light rail through downtown Raleigh may require a new railroad bridge over the existing South Boylan Avenue bridge.

One, as shown in the first TTA graphic below, would extend the new bridge over Hargett Street, allowing it to link with a proposed Union Station to be built at West Street south of West Morgan Street. Beyond Union Station, the rail line would head north up West Street or Harrington Street.

A second alternative would curve the bridge to the south, linking it to another alternative: a streetcar loop that would run on Salisbury and Wilmington streets, ringing the State Capitol.

In both alignments, the light-rail tracks would be forced to go over Boylan Avenue because of potential conflicts with freight lines in the railroad corridor beneath the bridge—the area known as the Boylan "Y." A deal that would allow light rail to stay on the ground through the "Y" is considered highly unlikely.

All of the over-Boylan plans are unpopular in the Boylan Heights neighborhood, however, and with members of the Downtown Living Advocates, according to City Councilor Russ Stephenson and Will Allen, co-chair of Raleigh's Passenger Rail Task Force.

The task force recommended—and City Council accepted its view—that the light-rail line use a third alternative, which would bring it into downtown Raleigh as a streetcar line on West Morgan Street. No bridge would be needed. The streetcar would connect to the main railroad corridor where it nearly abuts West Morgan—below Goodnight's Comedy Club and the Irregardless restaurant. There's a problem with the third alternative, though. West Morgan "dips" as it enters the downtown, and station stops can't be on an incline because of Americans With Disabilities Act requirements, according to Eric Lamb, the city's transportation planning manager. Thus, if the West Morgan alternative is used, no station stop would be possible at Union Station unless the street itself was raised—at substantial expense.The lack of a Union Station stop, Lamb notes, would create a big disconnect in a transit line meant to connect the region.

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