Durham County commissioners on Monday got an update on the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project that included possible adjustments to the location of two stations and the addition of a new station in downtown Durham.
Adding the proposed station near the Durham Performing Arts Center would require approval from Durham and Orange County commissioners and would cost an estimated $2.5 million. A station at this location was proposed in 2015, but it wasn’t expected to see enough ridership to warrant its construction so close to another stop at the nearby Durham Station.
“What we’re looking at is adding a station basically to serve DPAC and the ballpark and entertainment venues downtown,” project director Danny Rogers told the board, noting that the station would likely serve many out-of-town riders.
Commissioners seemed to favor a “city center” light rail station. “You don’t have to convince us, Danny,” said Commissioner Ellen Reckhow.
Another proposal would move a station planned for Patterson Place, off Witherspoon Road, about five hundred feet closer to Southwest Durham Drive to accommodate future development and make the station more accessible. Staff members are also looking at moving the so-called Gateway Station near U.S. 15-501 slightly west.
“When you relocate the station from the old one to the proposed location … you would have an additional two-point-one million square feet of economic development within a short walk to the station,” said Patrick McDonough, manager of planning and transit-oriented development.
Plans also call for moving the rail line on Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway from the median of University Drive to the side of the road. This means only one side of University Drive would have to be widened.
GoTriangle is also proposing that station platforms be built to accommodate two-car trains, instead of three-car trains. According to staff, the change would save an estimated $22 million and would make the DPAC station fit in its proposed location.
Over the summer, the project received approval from the Federal Transit Authority to move into the engineering phase. This keeps light rail on track to receive a 50 percent reimbursement for construction.
Overall, it’s a $3.3 billion project. GoTriangle expects that 10 percent of the funding will come from the state. Durham would pay for most of the $1.9 billion needed in local funding. The local share will be funded by vehicle registration fees, car rental fees, and a half-cent transit tax. Construction is projected to begin in 2020 and finish in 2028.