Politics & Government
6:00 am
Mon July 4, 2011

Transit Tax on the Ballot in Durham

Voters in Durham County will decide on a half-cent sales tax designed to increase revenue for a future rail line in the Triangle. Commissioners voted unanimously last week to place a referendum on November's ballot. It would raise more than $18 million to fund Triangle Transit Authority's proposal for a train network connecting Chapel Hill to Garner. Wake and Orange Counties decided to put off referendums until next year. Durham commissioner Ellen Reckhow says it makes sense for the county to take the lead on the project due to its central location in the Triangle.

Ellen Reckhow: "We're essential elements to each of their plans and as a result, we feel it's appropriate for us to move forward. And unless we're prepared with new options for people to move about our region, we will face a very congested future."
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the Triangle will grow by a million people in the next 20 years. Orange County commissioner Barry Jacobs says the board decided to delay a referendum because the county is already proposing a quarter-cent sales tax for education and economic development funds.

Barry Jacobs: "We were afraid that we would be overburdening people's capacity for self taxation if we put both on the ballot at the same time. We also had some concerns about not having a plan that was sufficiently known by our board and worked out by TTA for us to proceed."
Jacobs says the transit tax would likely be on next year's ballot in Orange County if it passes in Durham. The long-term plan calls for bus service expansion over the next three years and a finished rail system by 2025.