Local News

Commuter Rail Project In Triangle May Find Itself Off-Track

Posted February 8, 2005 6:11 a.m. EST

— The Triangle Transit Authority's commuter rail project in the region is slated to receive no money next year -- at least if the president has his way.

President George W. Bush's budget proposal does not include any money for the TTA for the rail project. Officials with the TTA said that they were not concerned that the budget did not include any money for the project.

"This is very typical. This is not unusual," said John Claflin, general manager of the TTA. "These projects, because they are so large and so complex, it takes a lot of years to get them complete and so based on my experience, we need to continue to work through the obstacles we have."

The Regional Transportation Alliance said High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes could be the answer. Transponders in cars allow drivers to use the special pay as you go lanes to get around big jams.

"In San Diego, it's called Fast Track. In the Northeast, they call it Easy Pass. Whatever you call it, the bottom line, it provides a new value-added, free-flow service and we all know we're hurting for transportation resources," said Joe Milazzo, of the Regional Transportation Alliance. "This is another way to get some money into the system."

The transportation alliance is talking to the DOT hoping that the next lanes added to I-40 are HOT lanes. The alliance would also like the Legislature to approve special transportation tax districts.

U.S. Rep. David Price, who supports mass transit, said that funding could still come to the project. Representatives from the TTA are planning to go to Washington, D.C., in two weeks to lobby the U.S. Transportation department for more money.

Because of rising costs, officials with the Triangle Transit Authority have already scaled back plans for their 25-mile rail system that would link Raleigh, Durham and Research Triangle Park. Original plans called for 16 stations, but the authority has scraped plans for four of those stations. The other four stations will be postponed indefinitely.