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Raleigh, NC (Regional Transit Plan)

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Regional Transit Plan
Phase I Regional Rail - Durham to North Raleigh

Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill MSA, North Carolina

(November 1996)


The Regional Transit Plan proposes a 3-phased project that will link the three counties--Wake, Durham, and Orange--in the Triangle Region of North Carolina. In Phase I, the Triangle Transit Authority (TTA) proposes to initiate regional rail service from Durham to downtown Raleigh and from downtown Raleigh to North Raleigh. The TTA is proposing to use diesel multiple unit (DMU) rail vehicles to serve the 16 anticipated Phase I stations.

The rail system plans to use the North Carolina Railroad (NCRR) and CSX rail corridors to connect Duke University, downtown Durham, Research Triangle Park, RDU Airport, Morrisville, Cary, North Carolina State University, downtown and north Raleigh. The corridors extend about 37 miles and will be an alternative for commuters that today use State Route 147 (Durham Freeway) from Durham to the Research Triangle Park (RTP), Interstate 40 from RTP to Raleigh, and US 1 (Capital Boulevard) from Raleigh to North Raleigh.

Capital costs for Phase I are estimated to be between $150 and $250 million, depending on whether existing track may be shared with freight rail traffic. The cost estimates include final design, acquisition of right-of-way and rail vehicles, station construction, park and ride lots, and construction of storage and maintenance facilities.


In 1995, TTA completed the Triangle Fixed Guideway Study, which was funded with $750,000 from FTA's Section 5313 planning program. The Authority's Board of Trustees has adopted the study's recommendations to put into place a regional [interurban] rail system, and resolutions or letters of support have been received from all major units of local government, chambers of commerce, universities, and major employers in the Triangle.

The two metropolitan planning organizations within whose urban areas the rail service will operate have incorporated the study recommendations into their fiscally constrained long-range transportation plans. These actions will be followed by inclusion of Phase I of the regional rail project into the two local TIP's and into the STIP.

Using local funds, TTA has continued to move toward implementing the regional rail system plan with additional planning studies that will result in station area development guidelines and more detailed cost estimates. Discussions with the railroads are also underway. The next step for TTA is to undertake Preliminary Engineering and Environmental Studies.

Through FY 1997, Congress has appropriated $2 million in Section 5309 New Start funds to the study.


Mobility Improvements - The Phase I Regional Rail service is estimated to carry 14,000 daily riders by 2020, providing a time-competitive alternative for commuters traveling in congested corridors. Vehicle miles traveled is expected to increase by 90 percent by 2020, as population and employment grow by over 75 percent.

Cost Effectiveness - A cost-effectiveness index was not available to FTA.

Environmental Benefits - The Raleigh-Durham Metropolitan Area is designated a "maintenance" area for both ozone and carbon monoxide. Phase I of the regional rail service would reduce overall VMT in the Triangle by about 1 percent. The Air Quality Analysis of the Phase I Regional Transit Plan for the Raleigh/Durham Area, published by the NC Department of Environmental Health and Natural Resources in May 1996, states, "the regional rail system will help control the growth in VMT in the Raleigh/Durham area by significantly increasing long-term transportation capacity in some of the Triangle Region's most congested corridors, and therefore help maintain the ozone and CO NAAQS."

Operating Efficiencies - The system-wide operating and maintenance cost per passenger is $2.80 per passenger for the No Build/TSM Alternative, and $2.62 per passenger for Regional Rail.


TTA's financing plan proposes the use of Federal, state, local, regional, and private sources to implement the Phase I Regional Rail service. The TTA is expected to seek Section 5309 New Start funds for this project.

TTA is financed by a vehicle registration fee, and, with NCDOT, expects to seek state legislative approval for increased regional taxing authority. TTA has used its own funds for additional planning studies since the completion of the Triangle Fixed Guideway Study in 1995. The project financing plan has identified potential sources which have the capability of financing the project. The region's major units of government have passed resolutions of support, which request the NC General Assembly to establish a permanent funding source for the implementation of the plan. The Governor has established the Transit 2001 Commission to develop state and local mechanisms for funding major public transit improvements. Implementation of the Commission's recommendations should be undertaken during the 1997 Session of the General Assembly. The average age of the TTA bus fleet is four years.


Land Use - The region's major units of government have worked to modify their Comprehensive Plans and planning and zoning tools to facilitate transit-oriented development. TTA is working with local planning departments and the real estate and development community to prepare Station Area Development Guidelines that will encourage pedestrian-friendly, transit-oriented mixed use development in the sixteen proposed station areas. These guidelines will be adopted by the governing bodies and will be used in developing Station Area Plans.

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