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Raleigh, North Carolina/Regional Transit Plan Phase I Regional Rail-- Durham to North Raleigh

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

Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill MSA, North Carolina

(November 1998)


The Phase I Regional Rail project is the proposed initial segment of a three-phased regional transit plan for linking the three counties -- Wake, Durham, and Orange -- in the Triangle Region of North Carolina. In Phase I, the Triangle Transit Authority (TTA) intends to initiate regional rail service from Durham to downtown Raleigh and from downtown Raleigh to North Raleigh. TTA proposes to use Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) rail vehicles to serve the 16 anticipated Phase I stations.

Phase I of the Regional Rail Project will use the existing North Carolina Railroad and CSX rail corridors to connect Duke University, downtown Durham, Research Triangle Park, RDU Airport, Morrisville, Cary, North Carolina State University, downtown Raleigh, and North Raleigh. Phase I is estimated to carry an estimated 14,000 riders a day by the year 2020. The capital cost estimate for Phase I totals $284 million (escalated dollars). The cost estimate includes final design, acquisition of right-of-way and rail vehicles, station construction, park and ride lots, and construction of storage and maintenance facilities.

Regional Transit Plan Summary Description

Proposed Project Commuter Rail
(Diesel Multiple Units)
35 miles, 16 stations (Phase I)
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $284.0 million
Section 5309 Share ($YOE) $111.0 million
Annual Operating Cost ($1997) $9.4 million
Ridership Forecast (2020) 14,000 daily boardings
6,000 daily new riders
FY 2000 Financial Rating: Medium
FY 2000 Project Justification Rating: Medium
FY 2000 Overall Project Rating: Recommended

The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1998. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.


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 rail system, and resolutions 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 jurisdiction the rail service will operate have incorporated the study recommendations into their fiscally constrained long-range plans. Phase I of the regional rail project is included in the two local 1998-2004 TIPs and the STIP. In January 1998, TTA initiated Preliminary Engineering and the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement. Negotiations with the railroads for access and station location planning are underway. TTA anticipates completion of Preliminary Engineering and a Record of Decision by January 2000.

TEA-21 Section 3030 (a) (68) authorizes the project for final design and construction. Through FY 1999, Congress has appropriated $23.87 million in Section 5309 New Starts funds for this project.


The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTA's Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. TTA's FY 2000 criteria submittal did not include a comparison to a No-Build alternative. N/A indicates data are not available for a specific measure.


Mobility Improvements

Rating: Low-Medium

TTA estimates the following annual travel time saving under the Phase I Regional Rail Plan Alternative compared to the TSM Alternative.

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours) N/A 1.3 million

Based on 1990 census data, there are an estimated 1,325 low-income households within a ½ mile radius of the proposed 16 stations of Phase I, approximately 13 percent of the total households within ½ mile of stations.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: Medium

The Raleigh-Durham Metropolitan Area is designated a moderate maintenance area for ozone and a maintenance area for carbon monoxide. TTA estimates that in 2020, Phase I of the Regional Rail project will result in the following emissions reductions for CO and VOC. However, TTA projects an increase in NOx emissions.

Criteria Pollutant New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Carbon Monoxide (CO) N/A decrease of 1,168 annual tons
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) N/A increase of 95 annual tons
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) N/A decrease of 69 annual tons
Hydrocarbons (HC) N/A N/A
Particulate Matter (PM10) N/A N/A
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) N/A N/A

TTA did not provide information on annual energy savings.

Annual Energy Savings New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
BTU (millions) N/A N/A

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: High

TTA projects a decrease in a systemwide operating cost per passenger mile in the year 2020 for the Phase I Regional Rail Plan compared to the TSM.

Operating Efficiencies No-Build TSM New Start
System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (1996) N/A $0.58 $0.44

Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1996 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Medium

TTA estimates the following cost-effectiveness index for the Regional Rail alternative compared to the TSM alternative.

Cost Effectiveness New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger N/A $11.62

Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1996 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Medium

The project’s Medium rating reflects the positive recent efforts of the TTA and local jurisdictions to better integrate surrounding land use with proposed station areas. Each major municipality along the corridor has established policies in its comprehensive plan for promoting transit-oriented development. In addition, TTA has developed conceptual plans for station areas and distributed transit-oriented guidelines. Jurisdictions in the corridor are using these guidelines to develop local area plans and revise zoning ordinances. Durham, out of the three counties, is the most advanced in transit-oriented planning and has drafted an overlay district with transit supportive guidelines/requirements. Three reuse/redevelopment projects are proposed in Raleigh and Durham within station areas. Adjacent to the proposed rail stations are a variety of land uses: moderately high density employment in downtown Raleigh and the medical center in Durham; low to medium density by the university and in the residential areas. In addition, commercial development is also adjacent to the station areas. A number of special event destinations; a large, high employment research and development park are all in the heart of the Triangle. Growth in the corridor through 2025 is expected to be significant (roughly 50 to 75 percent); however, this growth represents a declining share of regional population and employment.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 61%

TTA proposes that the State of North Carolina will provide $71.0 million (25 percent) to construct Phase I of the Regional Rail project. The local commitment to the project is estimated at $71.0 million (25 percent). FTA participation is proposed to include $111.0 million (39 percent) in Section 5309 New Starts funds and $31.0 million (11 percent) in Federal Section 5307 funds.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Medium

The Medium capital plan reflects the demonstrated local financial commitment to the project, but acknowledges the potential risk with some funding sources and the overall magnitude of the investment, relative to other capital projects undertaken by the TTA. TTA’s current financial condition is healthy and in balance; there are strong cash and investment reserves. The State of North Carolina has committed to providing a 25 percent share of the project costs through a combination of state grants, designation of flexible Federal funds, and a donation of existing right-of-way owned by the state. While the current financial plan fully identifies the sources of all Federal, state, and local capital funds, it does not identify specific details on the project's future revenues. In addition, the agency's planned investments over the next 5 to 7 years total $340 million, greatly exceeding the replacement value of TTA's existing asset base. The local project share will be funded using a combination of dedicated TTA sources including TTA’s dedicated Vehicle Registration revenue and a 5 percent tax on rental vehicles (effective January 1,1998). The capital financing plan assumes a 7.5 percent annual growth rate in these revenues, which are intended to cover 25 percent of debt servicing costs for a bond financed Rail Car procurement for the project. Failure to attain the projected 7.5 percent rate of growth for this source represents a potential risk to the financial plan. There is an additional 17 percent contingency built into the project's capital cost estimates.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Low-Medium

The Low-Medium operating finance rating reflects the project’s dedicated operating revenue stream but considers uncertainties regarding the final operating plan and lack of rail experience. TTA's operating plan assumes increases in ridership and service with planned bus expansions in 1999, 2000, and 2004. Annual O&M costs for Phase I total $9.4 million. These estimates appear realistic given the proposed project's size and assumed ridership and service levels. TTA plans to use an innovative 5 percent tax on rental vehicles as part of the proposed project's operating costs. The current financial plan assumes a 5.3 percent annual increase in bus ridership. In FY 1996 and FY 1997, TTA's farebox recovery ratio increased from 9 percent to 11 percent, respectively. Fare revenues from rail operations of the proposed project are assumed to cover 20 percent of operating costs.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
Appropriations to Date
Federal: Section 5309 New Starts $111.0 $23.87 million appropriated through FY 1999
Federal: Section 5307 Urbanized Area Formula Funds $31.0


State: $71.0


Local: $71.0


Total: $284.0

Note: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.

[Regional Transit Plan Map (PDF)]

Commitment to Accessibility: DOT is committed to ensuring that information is available in appropriate alternative formats to meet the requirements of persons who have a disability. If you require an alternative version of files provided on this page, please contact