The Durham-Orange Light Rail Heads to Washington, D.C. | Triangulator | Indy Week

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The Durham-Orange Light Rail Heads to Washington, D.C.

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On Friday, GoTriangle's board of trustees approved updated transit plans for Durham and Orange counties, allowing the proposed light rail transit system to move forward for federal grant approval.

The Federal Transit Administration had asked GoTriangle, which is heading up the $3.3 billion project, to submit updated transit plans, a cost-sharing agreement between the counties, and funding commitments by the end of April in order to move ahead in its request for a New Starts grant that would cover half of the project cost.

GoTriangle expects that 10 percent of the funding will come from the state, with the rest—about $1.9 billion—coming from the counties. The local share will be funded by vehicle registration fees, car rental fees, and a half-cent transit tax. Fare revenue will go toward maintenance of the 17.7-mile system. 

Light rail has not escaped opposition, particularly in Orange County, where cash reserves will take a larger hit than in Durham. The Orange County Board of Commissioners approved the plan 5–2 last Thursday, with commissioners Earl McKee and Renee Price voting against the project, citing concerns about the financial risks. Durham commissioners unanimously signed off last Monday.  

Construction is expected to begin in 2020 and finish in 2028, with the system becoming operational in 2029.

Some unknowns remain. For instance, GoTriangle still needs to secure state funding. But here's some good news for light rail supporters: while President Trump proposed limiting FTA funds, the compromise budget Congress passed last week increased the agency's funding by $236 million.

This article appeared in print with the headline "+ALL ABOARD (ISH)."

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