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Leaders get up-close look at what a Triangle commuter rail would look like

An Amtrak train already connects Raleigh and Durham, but elected officials in both cities want commuter rail to access the entire Triangle.

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By
Monica Casey
, WRAL Durham reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — On Thursday, local leaders looked at one way to ease traffic congestion and improve your commute.

About 80 people traveled the Triangle on public transit and learned about the future of a commuter rail.

The Regional Transportation Alliance, which serves as the voice of the business community on transportation issues and initiatives in our area, organized the tour.

An Amtrak train already connects Raleigh and Durham, but elected officials in both cities want commuter rail to access the entire Triangle.

Buses from RTP to Raleigh, and trains from Raleigh to Durham. This tour showed a different way to travel.

"The ride in is so smooth on the Amtrak," said Durham Mayor Elaine O'Neal. "It kind of gives you an idea of what the future could be, and what that ride could be about and like."

O'Neal hopes that future could include commuter rail service.

What needs to happen to make that happen?

"Money," O'Neal replied. "Money needs to happen. A lot of money."

O'Neal and Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin believe regional cooperation will be essential.

"We need to treat this with a sense of urgency," Baldwin said. "We can't be waiting 10 years, 20 years, and say 'well, we'll do it later.'"

The latest GoTriangle projections for rail from Durham to Garner or Clayton shows a price tag of roughly 3 billion dollars.

"Federal funding will be key to all of this, and so will our local commitment and local funding," Baldwin said.

More people on public transit could mean fewer cars on the roads, and less congestion.

Steve Rao, a Morrisville Town Council Member, believes there's already a population that would benefit from rail.

"I think there's a great opportunity to tap into those immigrants that are here who are used to traveling on transit, to get them to increase ridership," Rao said.

GoTriangle leaders say ridership this past August was higher than it was pre-pandemic. They say that makes this the perfect time to re-imagine transit. Go Triangle's latest projections for the cost of the new commuter rail were significantly higher than the previous estimates, but both mayors told WRAL they want to get it built.

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