As of February 25, 2014, a plan for an initial single line between Durham and Chapel Hill was been approved for Federal funding, with additional funding coming from a local sales tax increase that was approved earlier by popular referendum -- but the federal funding somehow disappeared by October of 2015, when we were back to the stage of needing to get state funding before applying for federal.
As of 2006, the initial rail line was ready to begin construction once funding is obtained, but the funding proposal to the FTA in 2005 was turned down. Proponents regrouped to work out the best strategy for another try
One theory for why it was turned down is that the Triangle area doesn't fit into the classic hub-and-spokes model that the FTA is accustomed to evaluating; another theory is that the FTA's evaluation methods make the odd assumption that the rail line will not affect patterns of growth in the area, which leads to severely lowered estimates of eventual ridership.
The proposed plan involved an initial rail line apparently running from two stops in downtown Durham, skirting RTP, through Cary, to two stops in Raleigh. Extensions would be built later to run the line out to Duke and three further stops in Raleigh. A secondary line was also tentatively planned (but not part of the 2005 FTA funding request) running from Durham to Chapel Hill along or near 15-501.1
In the absence of approval from the FTA, at least one suggestion2 was floated to start with the Durham-to-Chapel-Hill line, since most of the push for commuter rail seems to be coming from those two areas; the argument is that this would be easier and cheaper in some ways than the original Durham-to-Raleigh plan, might actually provide more bang for the buck, and in any case will get the ball rolling again. (This later formed the basis of the idea that was later adopted.)
- Our Transit Future: informational site about the plan currently (2015) going forward
- TTA Red Line: promotional site for the 2005 plan
- 2022-05-02 GoTriangle spent $157 million on failed light rail project. Here’s where it all went. «Nearly $131 million, or 83%, of the $157 million spent on the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project went toward management and design. This includes four major consulting contracts approved by the GoTriangle board of trustees to prepare for federal funding and construction approval.»
- 2019-03-05 We Spent 20 Years and $130 Million on Light Rail. Then Duke Decided It Was Inconvenient.
- 2019-02-27 Duke University Probably Just Killed Light Rail
- 2017-10-04 Durham Commissioners Consider Adding a New "City-Center" Light-Rail Stop Downtown (archive.is)
- 2016-09-19 Durham-Orange light rail plan may add stop at NCCU (archive.is via)
- 2014-02-25 Triangle Transit gets federal approval to plan Durham-Orange light rail
CHOO-CHOO: blog entry with some interesting details (content is probably available on Gary Kueber's Durham history site, whose name I can never remember)
Rail fight steams parties, but it fails to surprise: includes some history of the railroad in Durham (this probably doesn't have much to do with commuter rail, really...)
Poll: 70% of Triangle residents back rail(archive) 2006-04-12 Old and new issues still plague transit corridordead link 2006-03-22 TTA awaits rail data responsedead link
Backtalk"The air up there" letter by Chuck Till on another issue criticizes the rail plan in passing
Citizenby Bob Geary: largely about other local issues, but mentions that the revised plan was accepted as valid by the FTA
Citizen, Planners muscle up: update on rail proposal
Burtman, One-way track: status of the debate
Triangles, Walk this wayby Peter Eichenberger: argument against the commuter rail plan
Basic Training(cover story by Bob Geary): more details about the plan and its philosophy