The Federal Transit Administration issued a first-step approval for a seventeen-mile light-rail line to connect UNC-Chapel Hill and East Durham. This marks the first new rail transit project in the region since a failed attempt in 2006.
The next five years will see environmental, engineering, and land use studies in order to receive the state and federal funding needed to fund most of the $1.34 billion cost. Durham and Orange County voters have already approved a half-cent sales tax increase in April 2013 to help pay for the light rail line and enhanced bus service.
The Durham transit plan includes a rush-hour commuter train line from Durham to Research Triangle Park, Raleigh, and Garner. This part of the plan is currently on hold because no action has been taken on a corresponding transit plan for Wake County. The leaders of RTP are also planning development in the park that will include commercial space and housing accessible by future rail lines.
The Triangle will continue to be a hot market for growth in the United States. Its population is expected to grow to 2.5 million by 2035 according to Capital Area Friends of Transit. With the new light rail, some of the regions growth won’t further congest heavily used roadways like the Durham-Chapel Hill corridor (15-501) and 1-40 at rush hour.