by Bob Geary
Proliferating "No on NC3" signs in the Five Points neighborhoods list a 5 p.m. start tonight (Tuesday night). That's actually the time of a pre-meeting rally in Nash Square — right in front of City Hall — called by neighborhood organizers. The organizers also have a website with good information.
The Council meeting begins at 7 p.m. and will take the form of a public hearing at which residents are invited to make their views known. Thus far, the Council has taken no formal position of any of the proposed high-speed rail routes, and it's unclear whether it will do so before the official comment period on the HSR project closes September 10.
NC1/NC2-A.A. is essentially a hybrid, combining the benign parts of NC1/NC2 — the parts north of Peace Street — with the benign part of NC3 — the part south of Peace Street. A 1.200 foot railroad viaduct (bridge) would connect the two disparate sides, crossing over Capital Boulevard. The x-outs above are the problematic parts of the original NC1/NC2 alignments for which the bridge would be the replacement. The idea is explained in greater detail in this document: Waters_NC1_2_NC3_Avoidance_Alignment_FivePager.pdf
City Councilor Russ Stephenson has taken the lead on exploring the NC1/2-A.A. route, pushing to have the Council hear a report on it from city staff. Once that report was added to the agenda — city transportation staffer Eric Lamb will do the honors — suddenly the Rail Division of NC DOT wanted to be heard too, and they will be. They sent around an analysis tonight pooh-poohing 1/2-A.A.; but at first glance — to me, anyone — what DOT's engineer said seemed no more definitive about its shortcomings than the shortcomings already revealed re: NC1, NC2, and NC3.
In other words, every one of the three official HSR alignments has problems, and if one is chosen, the problems would need to be overcome. So guess what? 1-2-A.A., whose authors were still tweaking it last night, has problems too that would also need to be overcome.
Here's the DOT document: 2010-08-30_JTO-MH_Rekeweg_1_.pdf
Stephenson's point when I talked to him yesterday was that DOT and Raleigh are attempting the make "a 100-year decision" about rail transit and should take the time — and do the study — to get it right. Instead, he said, "It seems like this has been a tremendous rush to judgment so far."
A big question mark for him, Stephenson said, is how each of the proposed HSR alignments would work, or not work, in harmony with any TTA light-rail system. The Triangle Transit Authority is continuing to study its own alternative alignments through the center of Raleigh, but most of its plans would put some kind of local transit — either light-rail or diesel locomotives — on the NC1/NC2 corridor. "The question from my perspective," Stephenson said, "is whether we want to call a timeout" while city staffers do as complete an analysis as possible of the DOT's alternative routes, the TTA's alternatives, and how to get them working as a package.
He didn't answer his own question — tonight's hearing will help clarify the issues and whether more study is needed, he said.
Such a timeout could push the high-speed rail project back six months or more, Stephenson said. On the other hand, there's no funding available for it yet, and a six-month study might well not cost anything in terms of a buildout that could be many years away.