GoTriangle then has until the end of November 2019 to secure about $1.2 billion in federal funding.
"I would say that it gives us a very narrow needle to thread," Sen. Mike Woodard, D-Durham, said Wednesday. "It keeps the project moving ahead, but it's going to require a lot of hard work."
"It gives us a pretty good life line," said state Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham. "Not a lot of room for error."
Still, the change was welcomed by those worried over the near death of the project, which has already spent $88 million in local money on planning. Residents of Durham and Orange counties approved local sales taxes to help fund the project.
GoTriangle spokesman Mike Charbonneau certainly wasn't celebrating Wednesday's movement, though.
"We are aware of the new light-rail language in the technical correction bill, and GoTriangle staff is reviewing it carefully," Charbonneau said in an email. "For now, we will wait to see the final outcome of this bill before commenting on it."
McKissick said the new language grew out of vigorous negotiations since the original budget dropped, including a conference call with the Federal Transit Administration. The deadlines are based on dates GoTriangle considers reasonable, he said. With a project of this size and involving the federal government, though, that can always change.
"I'm optimistic that the deadlines can be obtained, but I would have preferred ... an extra six months or a year," McKissick said.
"It's going to make our local elected officials really work a lot harder with the GoTriangle team and with federal officials to the extent we've got any flexibility with this," Woodard said. "It's a very narrow window to pull this off, but this project has been fraught with these kind of challenges throughout. We keep persevering."
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