Proposed 43-mile commuter line from Durham would cost up to $3.2 billion, GoTriangle leaders say :: WRAL.com
GoTriangle leaders told WRAL News on Thursday that they are considering a new proposal for a 43-mile commuter rail line, to run from Durham to either Garner or Clayton, with a cost of between $2.8 billion and $3.2 billion.
The first step, a two-year feasibility study, would cost $9 million, according to the plan.
“There is a need to have a strong transit service in the Triangle region to supplement the roads we have, because congestion is just going to grow,” said GoTriangle CEO Chuck Lattuca.
The new proposal for commuter rail comes after the failed Durham-Orange Light Rail project cost taxpayers $157 million. Lattuca said if surrounding communities approve the new proposed commuter line, the project would have more stringent oversight compared to the failed line.
“If we do reach a nexus where we do feel the project is not viable, I think that decision would be made much earlier than the Durham-Orange Light Rail project,” Lattuca said.
Lattuca said the new proposed project is feasible.
“The barrier is how much will it cost?” Luttuca said. “Inflation is driving up a lot of costs right now, not just for our project, but many projects across the region.”
An option is to develop a starter service between Raleigh Union Station and the Auburn community in the town of Garner. That would cost between $600 million and $700 million, according to GoTriangle leaders.
“It may be easier to implement the [starter] project while you can continue to work on the more difficult challenges elsewhere in the corridor,” said GoTriangle Chief Development Officer Katharine Eggleston.
The proposal does not include plans for rail service to Raleigh-Durham International Airport, despite the popularity of such connections in other cities. There are plans for a bus connection to RDU.
GoTriangle estimates 10,000 to 18,000 people would ride a commuter rail each day, depending on the cost of service.
“It may be easier to implement the project while you can continue to work on the more difficult challenges elsewhere in the corridor,” Eggleston said.
The feasibility study describes those challenges, including complex agreements needed to operate on the tracks between Raleigh and Cary. There’s also a need to build new infrastructure, including areas where a second track is needed, 11-12 new stations, a fleet of trains and some new bridges over roads, particularly in Durham.
“It’s a higher cost than has previously been studied,” Eggleston said. “The major driver of that is inflation.”
Unlike the failed Durham-Orange Light Rail project, the proposed commuter rail line would require less private property since it would run along an existing freight rail line.
“I think the decisionmakers are going to have a lot more information this time around, and they’re going to have a lot more confidence that the decisions are going to be the right decision if and when we do move forward with the project,” Luttuca said.
GoTriangle is circulating this draft study to leaders in area municipalities to get their feedback before a final version goes to the public for comment, which set to happen in August.
If communities approve the project, the full service could be up and running by 2033 to 2035. The shorter starter service from Raleigh to Garner could start a few years sooner.
“We have an opportunity now to build a transit system that will serve the region for a long time,” Luttuca said.