For Immediate Release

Contact: Juan Carlos Erickson, 919-601-9270

Research Triangle Park, NC (July 28, 2017) - Durham and Orange counties' light-rail project will move into the final design — or Engineering — phase now that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has received the counties’ revised transit plans and determined the project to be justified under federal review criteria. This achievement means that the project remains eligible for over $1 billion in federal money.

Advancing into the Engineering phase of the federal Capital Investment Grant Program is a significant milestone for the project. The program provides matching federal funds to qualifying rail and other transit projects through a competitive application process. 

The FTA approval letter read in part: “FTA has determined that GoTriangle has the technical capacity and capability to effectively manage the Engineering phase of the Project.”

“This is great news for the people of Durham and Orange counties and the teams in both counties working so hard together to receive the federal approval needed to take the light-rail project from planning to construction,” said Durham County Commissioner Ellen Reckhow, who is also a GoTriangle board member. “The light rail will give our communities an option for a congestion-free commute with predictable travel times and offer direct connections to three hospitals, three major universities and job centers. It also will help create thousands of new jobs for our region.” 

FTA evaluated the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit (D-O LRT) project and issued favorable ratings in three major areas: the local financial commitment, the justification for the project and the project’s engineering readiness. FTA’s favorable justification rating is based on mobility improvements, environmental benefits, congestion relief, economic development effects, land use and cost-effectiveness. 

“We would like to sincerely thank the Federal Transit Administration for its support and collaboration on the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project,” said GoTriangle General Manager Jeff Mann. “We are pleased to continue working closely with our local, state and federal partners to deliver Durham and Orange counties’ plans for enhanced bus service, commuter rail, a new Amtrak station in Hillsborough and the light-rail project.” 

The federal government is expected to fund 50 percent of the project’s $2.47 billion design and construction costs, contingent on the remaining 50 percent coming from a combination of existing dedicated local transit funds, state funds and other private contributions. The D-O LRT project is eligible for up to 10 percent in state funding. The local funds will come from vehicle registration fees, car rental fees and a half-cent transit tax approved by voters in Orange County and Durham County.

“Today marks an important step forward for the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project and our region’s transportation future,’ said U.S. Rep. David Price, who represents North Carolina’s 4th District that includes parts of Durham and Orange counties. “I will continue working to ensure the federal government remains an active partner in this effort.”

Together, Durham and Orange counties will pay approximately $890 million of the project’s cost from those dedicated transit revenues, which also will provide money for operations and maintenance as well as reserve funds for repair needs. GoTriangle and its local government, community and institutional partners will work together to raise additional money through philanthropic, in-kind and corporate donations.

In December 2016, FTA approved the addition of a light-rail station at North Carolina Central University and amended its Record of Decision to approve a 17.7-mile light-rail line with 18 stations spanning from UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill to NCCU in Durham.

Project next steps:

  • GoTriangle will continue working with a general engineering consultant to complete the detailed design work needed to construct the D-O LRT project.  
  • The Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization will resubmit the D-O LRT project through the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s funding process. Under current state law, the project may receive up to 10 percent of its funding from the state.
  • GoTriangle, working together with its partners in Durham and Orange counties, will continue to advance the D-O LRT project so that FTA is able to recommend federal funding by 2020. 
  • The Funding and Community Collaborative – made up of leaders from local universities, health care institutions, government and the private sector – will continue working to support the project by helping to identify potential in-kind, land and monetary contributions from public and private partners.
  • The construction process is expected to begin in 2020, with service beginning in 2028.

Find a video about the project at

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