Durham-Orange light rail is coming, not all are on board

Posted March 18
Updated March 19

— Durham and Orange County have come together to get a light rail to create an easy connection between the two counties.

The goal is to ease the commute within the Triangle and make locations such as University of North Carolina Hospitals, UNC's Friday Center and Duke University easily accessible.

Carolyn Carter, a Durham resident, said because of the growing population in Durham, the county “really need(s) a light rail metro system in this town as well as for the Triangle area.”

Tensions rose around the plan causing some confusion with the route of the rail. Thomas Jones, another Durham resident said, “I just want to know the fascination with Chapel Hill. Raleigh is our state capital. Why not have services from Durham to Raleigh?”

For light rail to happen, it would have to go through two counties, and Orange County and Durham happened to fit the picture. Since the tax bill passed back in 2012, both counties have been discussing the budget and transit plan to move forward.

Durham-Orange light rail

The light rail map shows six stops within Orange County and 12 stops in Durham. The counties looked at their most populated areas and determined which stops were the best fit. Because Durham has the most stops, more of the financial burden will fall on them.

Even with less of a financial burden, there’s still a concern about light rail coming to Orange County. The trains should be running by 2028, according to Mike Charbonneau, director of Marketing and Communications of Go Triangle, at a projected total cost of $2.47 billion.

Orange County resident Alex Castro is skeptical about the timeline.

“The system won’t be open for the first rider until about 2029. That’s a long ways away for us seniors, and a great number of us may not get there,” he said.

Bonnie Hauser, another Orange County resident, mentioned that the money allocated for light rail is better spent on improving existing transit systems. “As the world is moving to driverless and ride-sharing programs and affordable and accessible transportation, we’re going to be paying for light rail,” she said.

The Federal Transit Administration gave Durham and Orange County a deadline of April 30 to produce an updated transit plan and cost sharing agreement.


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