Local News

Some taxpayers unhappy that light-rail cost is still rising

Posted May 29, 2019 6:36 p.m. EDT
Updated May 30, 2019 10:14 a.m. EDT

Some taxpayers in Durham and Orange counties are wondering why nearly $159 million of their dollars will be spent on a light rail project that will not happen.

WRAL first reported that increased price tag for the failed project -- up from $130 million -- yesterday.

Some taxpayers interviewed Wednesday said they could tell years ago that this project was not going to work. They want to know why the project kept moving forward, costing more and more money.

GoTriangle CEO Jeff Mann defends the spending. "We were seeking a very large project, and a large federal grant," he said, "and had support in doing that overall."

Some taxpayers see it differently.

"We think the project should have been cancelled two years ago, at $30 million, before we went into engineering," said Bonnie Hauser, an Orange County taxpayer with the group Affordable Transit for All. "We knew this big problems existed, and we didn't have suitable solutions."

The Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project fell apart earlier this year, a victim of funding shortages and GoTriangle's inability to reach an agreement on the project with Duke University and the North Carolina Railroad Company. Critics say they saw the writing on the wall years ago.

"I'm not sure what writing they saw on the wall, but we were optimistic," Mann said.

He pointed out that GoTriangle was not the decision-maker in keeping the project going. That required votes from officials in two counties.

There is no clear answer yet whether any of the already-paid-for work and land can be used for a future project.

"We are now looking at repurposing portion of the project where possible," Mann said. "It's a little early in that process."