Orange and Durham County leaders agreed Friday to accelerate efforts to update plans for a 17-mile light rail line that would stretch from UNC Hospitals to NC Central University.
County officials need to meet a new Federal Transit Administration deadline at the end of April. The FTA wants an updated cost estimate and funding strategy for the two-county light rail plan by April 30th. That's more than a month earlier than originally planned.
Durham County Commission Chairwoman Wendy Jacobs said a new station has been added to the plan, and the state has limited its financial commitment since the FTA last approved the project.
“What we're being asked to do at this point is to approve the cost share, approve the new agreements so that we can qualify and get the go-ahead to do the engineering phase,” Jacobs said. “We do not have to make our final decision about whether to commit full funding to this until 2020.”
Jacobs said plan and funding proposals will be released to the public on April 3rd. The public comment period will close on the 28th.
Durham and Orange county officials also need to confirm that 15 percent of the total project cost will come from local transit funds. If realized, the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project would have 18 stations on the commuter line.
Jacobs said the plan is crucial to alleviate traffic and serve commuters who don't have cars.
“I believe that the Durham-Orange Light Rail project is the most important infrastructure project for the future of our region,” she said.
The Federal Transit Authority is expected to contribute about one billion dollars to the proposed Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project.