Local News

Raleigh Councilman Wants To Redirect Regional Rail Project Funds

Posted February 23, 2006 7:34 a.m. EST

— Some Triangle leaders want money currently designated to a regional transit system that has lost funding from the federal government to be redirected to fund other projects.

To date, the Triangle Transit Authority has spent more than $140 million on the Triangle Regional Rail Transit System, which would provide a commuter rail line between Raleigh and Durham.

But with funding resistance from the federal government, Raleigh City Council Member Philip Isley wants the city's share of the money back.

"I don't think anybody who has looked at this objectively would disagree the federal government has done pretty much everything possible to make sure this does not occur," Isley said. "We've got a pot of money out there that's not being utilized. My hope would be that we could take a look at it."

About $7 million a year from a rental car tax goes toward the Regional Rail project.

Isley wants the City Council to lobby the Legislature to let Raleigh and Wake County use the tax money for road and school needs.

"It's not a smart public policy move," said Carter Worthy, the chairman of the Triangle Transit Authority Board of Trustees, who was appointed by the city of Raleigh.

The TTA will know by Sept. 30 if the project is permanently derailed from federal support. Even if it's not, Worthy says the project could continue with local funding.

"I think it's a premature request, and a bad idea," she said. "We need leaders on both sides of the aisle to understand we are desperate for transportation investment."

Worthy believes that this is not the time to take an existing transportation funding source and direct it to other areas.

"Just because we don't get that money does not mean the project is dead," she said. "We are a region that controls our destiny."

Isley disagrees.

"We need the roads more than we need the train right now, and I'd like to see that money utilized to do that," he said.

Like Isley, Tony Gurley, the chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, supports the reallocation of TTA funds.

Gurley has asked a committee looking into the county's infrastructure needs to look at how the money could be best utilized.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker, however, supports the TTA, saying that if the regional rail project fails, the money should go toward another regional transit system.

To kill the Regional Rail project altogether, it would take a decision by the TTA Board of Trustees or the North Carolina General Assembly.