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Neighborhoods want to derail plans for nearby commuter train route

Posted April 15, 2015
Updated April 16, 2015

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— Residents of a subdivision off N.C. Highway 54 are balking at a proposal that would route a planned light rail line linking Durham and Chapel Hill past their neighborhood, saying it will only add to congestion in the area.

The 17-mile rail line has been planned for years, and GoTriangle officials expect to pick a final route for the $1 billion project by early next year.

One of the existing proposals would run the line along N.C. 54 past the Downing Creek community and the William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education. Residents there say they like the idea of light rail, just not in their neighborhood.

"N.C. 54 is already a congested corridor. Traffic studies did not consider the impact to the community," said Alex Cabanes, who has lived in Downing Creek for the past decade. "We’re also concerned that it would have an impact on emergency response times."

Cabanes said an informal poll of nearby residents found 80 percent opposed the light rail line along N.C. 54.

"Look at how congested (the highway) is and imagine putting trains stopping traffic every 10 or 15 minutes at those periods of time," resident Tom Swasey said.

The community has lobbied GoTriangle to stick with an earlier proposed route that would run the line through the nearby Meadowmont community. Meadowmont was designed to accommodate light rail, but many of the people living there now don't want the line close to their homes either.

"I think it is a bonus and a plus for either community regardless of the corridor," said Roger Perry, the developer who created both communities. "One thing is for sure, Meadowmont and Downing Creek will be better than they are today when there is a rail system that runs nearby. I just want it to come, and I want to see it in my lifetime."

GoTriangle officials have met with thousands of people in recent months, including Downing Creek residents, as they craft the final plan for the rail line, and they will continue to weigh various concerns, spokesman Brad Schulz said.

"Talking with and listening to the public is what we have done and will continue to do as we work to make the proposed light rail project the best it can be,” Schulz said in an email to WRAL News.

"Change is always going to have unknowns, and some people are very uncomfortable with unknowns," Downing Creek resident Jim Abrahamson said. "I'm glad people are expressing themselves. ... The decision should be made by taking those things into account."

7 Comments

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  • Hugh Cayless Apr 16, 2015
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    As Jim notes, the NIMBY-ism has already happened. The "Woodmont" location is a bad second choice after the higher-density (and probably wealthier and therefore more influential) Meadowmont neighborhood objected. There's no parking. There's not even bus service within a mile or two of the location now, which should tell you there'll be no ridership for rail. It'll interfere badly with traffic coming onto and off NC 54 from Barbee Chapel Rd., which is a major alternate route to/from Wake and Chatham. Basically it's a terrible location for a station.

  • Christopher Rose Apr 16, 2015
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    If its in chapel hill city limits good luck. The town pretty much kisses Perry's backside regardless of what the existing residents think.

  • Chad Johnson Apr 16, 2015
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    We need a subway like in NYC so I can get home from the bar on the other side of town

  • Jim Doughty Apr 16, 2015
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    This account is missing important facts.

    1. If there's a NIMBY angle here, it's in Meadowmont, the community on the north side of Rt. 54. That's where the rail line was envisioned many years ago. Recent objections there have given rise, late in the game, to an "alternate" on the south side of the highway -- in front of Downing Creek, the neighborhood I call home.

    2. That alternate route would put the line's riders on one side of Route 54 and the station on the other, which is dumb enough. But it would also introduce three grade crossings to cut our neighborhood off from Rt. 54, which is our conduit to the world. That's what we mean by "congestion."

    3. People everywhere recognize grade rail crossings as antiquated and dangerous. The gruesome deaths in New York this winter are only the latest proof. Now they want to put three new ones in my neighborhood? And dozens around the Triangle? Madness.

    See the maps and learn the facts at http://ourtransitfuture.com/projects/durham-orange.

  • Jenna Moore Apr 16, 2015
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    Alexia--the rail is designed to run between Durham and Chapel Hill. Not everyone living in those neighborhoods will be heading in that direction or anywhere on that line. That means that all the vehicles that currently go elsewhere from that neighborhood will be stopped by the rail line running through, apparently every fifteen minutes. For example, those people who need to head East instead will have to wait for the trains to clear the tracks to continue their commute.

  • Al Smith Apr 15, 2015
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    NIMBY! Like 540. Everyone wants public works to improve transportation, but no one wants to pay for it or have it be near them.

  • Alexia Proper Apr 15, 2015
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    I'm confused. Isn't the point of any rail line to decrease overall vehicle congestion? How would this add to the congestion if their is a line running nearby?