Local News

Neighborhoods want to derail plans for nearby commuter train route

Posted April 15, 2015 6:16 p.m. EDT
Updated April 16, 2015 11:34 a.m. EDT

— 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."