Cary, NC — Good news for Durham and Orange Counties this week: the Feds have approved a plan for light rail between Durham and Chapel Hill. Left at the station without a ticket: Wake County.
Durham & Orange Rail Plans Move Forward
On Tuesday, the Federal Transit Authority gave first-step approval to a plan for 17 miles of light rail between Durham and Chapel Hill.
The next five years will see environmental, engineering and land use studies. If all goes according to plan, construction could begin and would take an additional 5 years.
The State and the Feds will pick up the majority of the $1 billion plus price tag. Durham and Orange County voters approved a half-cent ($.005) hike in the sales tax to find the project.
Wake County voters have yet to enjoy a vote on the regional plan. Blame falls on the shoulders of the Wake County Commissioners who have stalled on a 2011 plan and refused to put the question to citizens.
Growth: It’s Coming
The Triangle is, has been, and will continue to be a hot market for growth in the United States. Population is expected to grow to 2.5 million by 2035, up from 1.6 million today, according to Capital Area Friends of Transit.
The Durham-Chapel Hill corridor (15-501) is already choked with traffic and I-40 no picnic at rush hour. With new light rail, some of the region’s growth won’t have to be borne on already heavily used roadways.
And in Wake County? More buses.
Buses are cool, but businesses will be attracted to the new rail corridor.
Light Rail and Downtown Cary
One of the biggest impediments to growth in Downtown Cary is uncertainty about plans for rail. The Triangle plans call for Phase One of local rail from Garner through Raleigh, Cary, Morrisville, RTP and up to Durham. Those trains will roll right through the Cary station at Academy and Chatham.
Private development on a significant scale will continue to stall in Downtown Cary until we know whether we are in (or out) on regional rail.
Wake: Time to Get Rolling
The Wake County Commissioners are likely to take up the issue at a retreat in Holly Springs this Friday, according to the News & Observer.
That’s good news, because we’re already several years behind our neighbors in Orange and Durham.
It is the opinion of this writer that the Wake County Commissioners should let the voters decide at the earliest possible time whether or not to join the regional rail plan with a half cent increase in sales tax.
First Google Fiber. Now regional rail. It’s starting to sound a lot like a 21st century region.
Hal Goodtree is the publisher of CaryCitizen.com. Photo of light rail in Charoltte, NC by James Willamor.
CaryCitizen is sponsored in part by Waverly Place.