Last week, responding to criticism that they'd sneakily sunk the Durham–Orange Light Rail Transit project in a backroom budget deal, Republican lawmakers allowed it to limp on through what's called a "technical correction" to the budget passed earlier this month. In short, the correction—Senate Bill 335—eliminates the Catch-22 the budget created, in which the state wouldn't fund the light rail until the feds did, knowing full well the feds wouldn't fund the light rail until the state already had.
But the General Assembly being the General Assembly, it did tack on some new conditions. For starters, the project is only eligible for $190 million in state funding, less than the $247 million GoTriangle had budgeted. Second, and perhaps more important, the project's boosters have until April 30, 2019, to gin up $100 million in private funding and November 30, 2019, to produce a commitment for federal funding or light rail goes away forever.
Now that you're up to speed, here's Fred Herndon on why he thinks the current iteration of DOLRT "needs to be put to sleep": "We are being asked to pay millions of taxpayer dollars, basically to connect Duke and UNC hospitals. This is not a system that will ever attract enough riders to pay for itself or that would even be very useful for the general community. There are far better ways to spend the money, but if you really want to build a light rail system, design something that will actually be useful for the taxpayers.
"Durham County owns a hundred-foot easement along both sides of I-40 that the property owners cannot use. Run the railway down the right of way and pay the landowners a reasonable lease fee for the use of the property. It wouldn't have to be a lot—all the landowners can do now is pay tax on the land. Follow I-40 to stops at Southpoint, RTP, and RDU, with plans to eventually follow Wade Avenue to the fairgrounds and N.C. State. Run a north-south line up the American Tobacco Trail from the Southpoint station past N.C. Central to Duke—again, an easement the county already owns. Maintaining the right of way for a future railway was the stated purpose for preserving it to start with.
"Now you have connected three major universities with RTP, the airport, a revitalized downtown Durham, and suburban shopping. The north-south spur connecting South Durham with N.C. Central and Duke would also provide needed transportation for workers living in disadvantaged areas of Durham. Would it be even more expensive than the existing proposal? Of course it would, but if finished all the way to N.C. State, the Triangle would have something world-class and truly useful, not the ego-driven boondoggle we are being sold now."
In last week's paper, Cole Villena wrote about a group of Liverpool Football Club fanatics and whether the North Carolina Football Club has the devotion it needs to lure Major League Soccer to Raleigh. Commenter HH87 believes it does: "An MLS team would do super well in this area. Lots of transplants from all over the place, the absence of a sports team that plays through the summer, and a lot of young people. Sure, Atlanta is a lot bigger, but a lot of the new fans for the MLS team there say that they joined up because the new soccer team gives them a sense of identity in their city. The same could happen in the Triangle. We need to get the land sorted out in downtown Raleigh, and I'm confident the stadium will sell out."
CbroCitizen was at the London Bridge Pub with the group of pro-Liverpool revelers and calls it a "great outpouring of support for soccer and Liverpool. Soccer's time has come in the Triangle region. NCFC, lead us to one of the remaining MLS slots. Fans are eagerly waiting."