Rendering of a Durham-Orange Light Rail station.

Land donations from the University of North Carolina and N.C. Central have put the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit line closer to meeting its first state-imposed funding deadline.

The Council of State recently approved the two donations to GoTransit Partners, a nonprofit tasked with raising $102.5 million in private land and cash donations, according to GoTriangle, which is spearheading the $2.47 billion project.

The donations bring that goal down to about $88 million, GoTriangle told the INDY in an email. 

UNC donated eighteen parcels of land along the line with an appraised value of $14,220,875. NCCU donated seven parcels valued at $285,425. (The Council of State must approve donations of public land.)

GoTransit Partners, whose board of directors is chaired by Capitol Broadcasting Company vice president Michael Goodmon and also includes former Durham mayor Bill Bell, is working under a tight timeframe after legislators imposed do-or-die deadlines on the light rail project in this year’s budget.

In order to receive $190 million in state funding, $1 billion in local money needs to be committed to the project by April 30. Local government dollars have already been dedicated, but $102 million in private donations still needs to be secured to meet that deadline.

Durham County is paying for the bulk of the local share. The county had already agreed to kick in $738.4 million when the state budget was passed, capping the state’s possible contribution at $190 million—$57.6 million less than what planners had expected. In August, Durham County agreed to pick up that shortfall. Orange County, where less of the line will be located and where local officials have pledged not to increase the county’s share of the project, will contribute $149.5 million. 

The counties are funding their share through sales taxes, vehicle registration fees, and vehicle rental fees. About $90 million from these voter-approved funds has been spent already, and the project is now more than 50 percent designed. 

The second deadline imposed by the state is November 30, 2019, when  GoTriangle has to secure federal funding. GoTriangle is seeking a federal New Starts Grant to cover half of the project, about $1.2 billion. All non-federal funding for the project needs to be secured in order to get the grant.  

GoTriangle general manager Jeff Mann told the INDY this summer it was already the agency’s plan to secure a federal funding agreement by September 2019.

If the project doesn’t hit these deadlines, it will be removed “from the current and any future State Transportation Improvement Program,” which allocates funding for transit projects across the state.