On Thursday evening, a bunch of influential community groups in Durham—CAN, DCIA, People’s Alliance, the Coalition for Affordable Housing and Transit—will hold a rally to call on Duke University to support the light-rail project.

The university’s support is critical to the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project meeting two upcoming state-imposed deadlines.

The first is on April 30, when GoTriangle, the public transit agency spearheading the project, needs to have all non-state and non-federal funding committed. That includes money from Durham and Orange Counties as well as a fundraising effort (by the nonprofit GoTransit Partners) to raise $102 million.

The second deadline is November 30, when federal funding needs to be committed. GoTriangle is seeking about $1.2 billion from the federal government.

If the project misses either deadline, it will be removed from current and future consideration for up to $190 million in state funding.

What does Duke have to do with this?

GoTriangle needs about a dozen cooperative agreements with key partners as part of its federal funding application. Duke is one. Negotiations toward that agreement have been taking place for years to ensure that Duke’s medical facilities aren’t adversely affected by construction or operation of the line.

As recently as January 25, those details were still being worked out, according to a memo that went out to GoTriangle trustees:

MEMO BOT Duke-Negotiation-U… by on Scribd

According to a federal funding timeline shared with trustees in mid-January, GoTriangle needs a cooperative agreement with Duke by February 28. The same document lists a “target date” to receive a property donation from the university by January 31, which has obviously passed.

Asked for an update on those target dates, GoTriangle told the INDY Thursday that “the project team is continuing to work on property donations and agreements, including those required from Duke, needed to meet the April 30 deadline and planning to submit an application for federal Full Funding Grant Agreement this spring to meet the Nov. 30 deadline.” 

A property donation from Duke would count toward the $102 million fundraising effort that is supposed to wind up April 30. At last check, $14.5 million has been raised so far via land donations. According to GoTriangle, Duke’s prospective donation would add $16.5 million to that total. 

“The full property donation and fundraising goal of $102 million is also still in progress,” a GoTriangle spokesperson told the INDY. “The donation process has slowed with focus on downtown Durham changes and ongoing negotiations with Duke University.” (Last we asked, Duke declined to discuss the specifics of those negotiations, saying only that they were ongoing. We reached out again this afternoon.)

GoTriangle intends to finish the federal funding process by April 30 in order to stay on track to have that funding secured by November 30. During the thirty-five-day partial federal government shutdown, application materials weren’t being reviewed because many Federal Transit Administration employees were furloughed and those who were working were tasked with “immediate issues of life and safety.”

Update: In a statement to the INDY, a Duke spokesperson says “We are working with Go Triangle to address the university’s continuing concerns about aspects of the construction and operations of the light rail system to ensure the ongoing viability of community health, research and patient safety at Duke.”