Light Rail

Photo: North Carolina's Old State Capitol building.
Soggy6 / Flickr

Lawmakers convened in Raleigh nearly a month ago for a short session to address the state's budget. But legislators have proposed measures on other items including bills on coal ash, light rail and sanctuary cities.

Also this week, Senator Fletcher Hartsell, a Republican from Concord, was indicted on charges of illegal campaign expenditures. The long-serving member in the Senate says he will not resign.

An illustration of the plaza outside the proposed Union Station.

A shortage of skilled laborers and rising costs of materials is pushing Raleigh's proposed downtown train station over its $44.7 million budget.

Richard Kelly, Raleigh's interim public works director, said despite combing through budget items and weeding out high bids, the project is going to cost another $10 million to complete.

An artist's rendering of a light rail stop.
GoTriangle / Triangle Transit

A provision in the legislature's new budget proposal would limit state spending on any light rail project to $500,000 per-year.

That's a far cry from what the North Carolina Department of Transportation recommended contributing to the proposed Durham-Orange Light Rail project. In its State Transportation Improvement Program, NCDOT allotted $138 million for GoTriangle's light rail project.

An artist's rendering of a light rail stop.
GoTriangle / Triangle Transit

The regional bus and transportation planning agency GoTriangle has released an advance copy of the draft environmental impact statement for the Durham-Orange light rail line proposal. The statement is to be published formally later this week by the Federal Transit Administration. You can read about the impact statement and comment online here.

An artist's rendering of a light rail stop.
GoTriangle / Triangle Transit

Durham County and City officials will get updates about opportunities to improve affordable housing along the planned light rail line that will run into Orange County.

"What we've seen around the country is that, as these light rail systems are built, they are a major public infrastructure, and you see property values and rents go up in these areas, usually," said Aaron Cain, a Planning Supervisor for the city.

CAT Bus Route #4 Rex Hospital at a bus stop on Hillsborough Street in Downtown Raleigh.
Mywebsite1234000 / Wikipedia

Wake County has taken plans for a light rail system off the table, for now.

The county's Transit Advisory Committee voted this week on which plans to present for public comment.

Jason Horne of Raleigh is on the 50-plus member committee.

"We have a duty, I believe, to give the best bang for the buck to the tax payers who are investing in this. And the light rail is significantly more expensive for the benefit that you would get when we could get a lot of the same benefit at the much lower cost with bus rapid transit or rapid rail transit."

An artist's rendering of a light rail stop.
GoTriangle / Triangle Transit

Triangle Transit will present its latest plans this week for a stretch of the light rail line that would connect Orange and Durham Counties.

The organization hosts public meetings in Chapel Hill Wednesday and Durham on Thursday to focus on the stretch of light rail line connecting UNC Hospitals with the Duke and VA hospitals. Spokesman Brad Schulz says the plan addresses local communities' locations, zoning and environmental concerns.

Wonder what that proposed 17-mile light rail project that would connect Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina would look like? Take a look at the latest model. It's made using Google Earth's virtual tour capabilities and other 3D software:

Project planners will have an environmental impact statement ready for public review in early 2015. The project is set to be constructed between 2020 and 2026 depending on approvals and funding.

Triangle Transit Authority

The Federal Transit Authority (FTA) has given the green-light to begin the first steps of a 17-mile light rail project connecting Durham and Orange Counties.

The decision authorizes Triangle Transit to begin development on the project, by studying the potential environmental impact of two proposed rail routes.

Triangle Transit has put together this video "fly-through" of the proposed light rail route:

Light rail transit with Amtrak visualization of area near Durham Station Transportation Center.
Triangle Transit Authority

An advisory committee is set to meet for the first time to make recommendations for the next steps in building a light rail line in Orange and Durham counties. 

The group of government representatives, university officials, and business leaders convenes Friday morning in Chapel Hill.  Triangle Transit Authority plans to build a 17-mile line from UNC Hospitals to downtown Durham. 

Light rail transit with Amtrak visualization of area near Durham Station Transportation Center.
Triangle Transit Authority


Wake County commissioners invited a panel of experts to weigh-in on possible plans to develop rail transit in the county.

The three experts urged the county to focus on other mass transit solutions like expanding the bus system. Host Frank Stasio talks with Bruce Siceloff, a reporter for the News & Observer about the future of mass transit in Wake County.

A 14-mile light rail line is part of Triangle Transit's proposal for Wake County.
Triangle Transit Authority

Commissioners in Wake County are holding their first public discussion about a plan for expanded bus and light rail services.

The board meets Tuesday morning with three transit experts from outside the state.  It's the county's first public meeting about the plan, which Triangle Transit Authority presented in 2011.  Commissioners have declined to bring it up for discussion since then. 

Commissioner Paul Coble says he wants a second opinion.

Light rail transit with Amtrak visualization of area near Durham Station Transportation Center.
Triangle Transit Authority

Advocates of the proposed light rail line from Chapel Hill to Durham say local governments should plan early to set aside money for affordable housing near train stations.  Researchers with Triangle Transit Authority met with Durham residents earlier this month. 

TTA research associate Geoff Green says the agency examined how property values changed when other metropolitan areas decided to build light rail.

Orange County Commissioners have given final approval to levy a half-cent sales tax for transit projects starting this Spring. Commissioners decided this week to collect the tax beginning on April 1. Voters in Orange County approved the tax on a ballot referendum in November. Durham residents did the same last year and will start paying the tax at the same time. Revenue goes toward a $1.4 billion plan from Triangle Transit Authority to expand bus services and build a light rail line from UNC Hospitals to downtown Durham.

Triangle Transit Authority
Triangle Transit Authority

The Raleigh City Council has approved a proposal for a downtown light rail line.

City council members voted last night to support a route that goes through the west side of downtown along Harrington Avenue. It's a segment of the light rail proposal from Triangle Transit Authority that would eventually run from Chapel Hill to Garner. The council's plan breaks from a recommendation by the city's Passenger Rail Task Force. That route would have brought tracks into the heart of downtown on both sides of the Capitol building.

City Council members in Raleigh are holding a public hearing today to get feedback about a light rail line proposal.

The recommendation from Raleigh's Passenger Rail Task Force takes light rail tracks down Morgan Street to the Capitol building. There, they split in two and run north along Wilmington Street and south on Salisbury Street. It's part of Triangle Transit Authority's plan to build commuter train and light rail tracks from Chapel Hill to Garner by 2025.

A Raleigh task force has recommended a $300 million light rail route for the downtown area. It's part of a proposal from Triangle Transit Authority to complete commuter train and light rail systems from Orange to Wake Counties by 2025. Eric Lamb is Raleigh's transportation planning director. He says the proposed route leaves the existing tracks at Morgan Street and splits into two tracks that wrap around the Capitol Building at Wilmington and Salisbury Streets.