Local News

Regional Rail Could Prove Taxing To The Triangle

Posted January 8, 2002

— Anyone who thought Triangle traffic would undergo a dramatic drop once a regional rail system came to town can think again.

Among the fine print in the

Triangle Transit Authority's

$6 million environmental impact statement for a

regional rail system

is the fact that the rail line would not put a dent in Triangle traffic.

The organization trying to bring the trains to the Triangle admits traffic would be reduced by less than one percent.

The study also shows that the rail system could end up requiring additional taxes to operate.

The Triangle Transit Authority said that simply offering commuters another choice has been its aim all along.

"We don't solve traffic congestion, but we offer an alternative to the people stuck in traffic," said Joe Huegy, a transportation planner for the Triangle Transit Authority.

"Whereas it might take you 25 or 40 minutes to get to the [Research Triangle] Park, it might take you an hour and 10 minutes to get there [now]. The train will be a much more reliable, much shorter period of time," TTA board member Anne Franklin said.

The alternative to hitting the highways could prove expensive, according to the TTA's draft report. It says the rail line may eventually require more tax money to feed its $29 million annual operating budget, although the TTA's finance chair doubts that.

"We've been very, very conservative not to overestimate the kind of return that we'll get," Franklin said.

The TTA plans to rely on a vehicle registration tax and rental car taxes for part of the rail line's funding. These two sources of revenue have been down lately because of the recession, but the TTA expects they will bounce back when the economy does.

The TTA said that no single transportation project in the region will solve the Triangle's traffic woes. It will take a combination of a rail system, more roads, more bus service and other innovative ideas to relieve congested roads.

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