- Orange County Board of Commissioners
- United States of America
The proposed Durham-Orange Light Rail (DOLRT) project is a huge commitment of our future tax revenues and an irreversible choice of transit investments. Shortly, the Orange County Commissioners will consider an amended Cost-Sharing agreement with Durham and GoTriangle that increases the amount of funds that Orange County will commit to construction of the project. Until now, that amount was fixed at $149.5 million plus interest on debt.
Last month, GoTriangle held a closed Financial Task Force meeting to consider options to cover DOLRT’s rapidly increasing costs. We’ve learned about this meeting through a public records request. According to GoTriangle’s materials, the base costs of the $3.3 billion project could grow by as much as $500 million due to changes in design and to meet the FTA’s demands for contingency funds.
A big part of the project’s financial problems came about because GoTriangle failed to disclose problems with downtown businesses in Durham and with Duke University that have been going on for years. That has forced them to suddenly add on a tunnel under Pettigrew Street with an underground station - all very expensive. On top of that, we expect additional costs for Downtown Durham and Erwin Road near Duke Hospital.
With the new changes, the project is hundreds of millions of dollars short and Durham and Orange may be expected to make up the difference.
At the same time, the transit we have now - Chapel Hill and Orange Public Transit - are experiencing higher costs and reductions in federal and state subsidies. The enormous cost of the light rail project is diverting most all our transit funds that could instead be used for more practical and cost effective solutions that serve more people.
We are at a critical decision point for reaching wise financial decisions for our county and need your help.
This petition below asks our county commissioners to refrain from committing any more funds to the light rail project, and to commit additional funds to needed bus and demand services. It also asks the Orange County Commission to engage their experienced independent consultant, Davenport, to help them better consider the growing risks that light rail poses to our County’s budget and financial stability.
Signatures will be accepted until 5 pm, February 19th, when the County Commissioners will consider the revised cost-sharing and Orange County transit plans for the rail project.
We the undersigned Orange and Durham County residents are gravely concerned about the rising costs, growing risks, and changing debt plan for the Durham Orange Light Rail Project, as well as the lack of project transparency. We respectfully ask the Orange County Board of County Commissioners to:
• Reaffirm Orange County’s commitment to spend no more than $149.5 million for the project.
• Add a cap on the amount the county will spend on debt.
• Do not commit funds to backstop project contingencies, delays in private funding, or other potential project risks.
• Designate a larger portion of transit taxes to fill funding gaps facing Chapel Hill Transit and Orange Public Transit.
• Retain Davenport & Company to do a thorough review of the GoTriangle’s revised financial plan to build and operate DOLRT and its impact on Orange County’s budget and financial stability. Include the risks of expected shortfalls or delays in private funding, construction cost overruns and other factors.
Given the County’s present tight fiscal condition, we feel these steps are the minimum commitments needed to protect funding for schools and essential services from DOLRT cost overruns, should the Commissioners decide to continue to support the project.
The Light Rail: Stop, Look, and Listen petition to Orange County Board of Commissioners was written by Stop Look and Listen and is in the category City & Town Planning at GoPetition.