The GoTriangle board of trustees voted unanimously today to recommend that its cost-sharing partners drop the project after failing to reach agreement with a university and a state-owned railway located alongside the route.
The board acted on the recommendation of GoTriangle president and CEO Jeff Mann, who said: “The light-rail project has been considered the spine of Durham and Orange counties’ transit plans since Durham voters in 2011 and Orange voters in 2012 approved a half-cent sales tax to invest in significant public transit improvements.
“As we’ve stated many times, the project would create and support tens of thousands of new jobs and infuse billions of dollars into our local and state economies. The final, approved light-rail alignment connects three of the top 10 employers in the state and three major hospitals as well as UNC, Duke and North Carolina Central University.
“Over the years, the two counties have used this approved light-rail alignment as a basis for land-use, economic development and affordable housing plans to best accommodate the more than 7,000 people the counties are adding each year.
Unfortunately, this project has recently faced a number of significant challenges, most notably Duke University’s refusal to sign necessary agreements with GoTriangle.”
He said that for more than a decade - and more intensely over the past year - GoTriangle and local elected officials have worked closely with Duke to address the university’s concerns, going as far as to include a US$90m design change to elevate the light rail over Erwin Road at the university’s request.
“As you know, Duke has refused to sign a cooperative agreement with GoTriangle and more recently denied our request to continue conversation through mediation,” he added. “As of today, we also have not reached a final agreement with the state-owned North Carolina Railroad that is also necessary for the project to move forward.
HDR had been appointed in August 2017 to lead the final design of GoTriangle’s 17.7-mile urban transit system, which was to be North Carolina’s first outside the Charlotte metro. The region forecasts a double-digit population surge during the next two decades and the new system was expected to accommodate 26,000 trips per day.