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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 2000)


The Phase I Regional Rail project is the first 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 stations proposed for the Phase I of the project.

TTA has proposed that the Phase I 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. The proposed project is estimated to serve 17,600 average weekday boardings by the year 2020. The most recent capital cost estimate for Phase I is $754.7 million (escalated dollars). The cost estimate includes final design, acquisition of right-of-way (ROW) and rail vehicles, station construction, park and ride lots, and construction of storage and maintenance facilities.

The corridor proposed to be used by TTA for the project is shared among a number of railroads, thus, TTA is considering a number of track realignments to accommodate proposed inter-city and high-speed rail improvements.

Regional Transit Plan Summary Description

Proposed Project Commuter Rail
(Diesel Multiple Units)
34.7 miles, 16 stations (Phase I)
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $754.7 million
Section 5309 Share ($YOE) $111.0 million
Annual Operating Cost ($1997) $28.4 million
Ridership Forecast (2020) 17,600 average weekday boardings
FY 2002 Financial Rating: Medium-High
FY 2002 Project Justification Rating: Medium
FY 2002 Overall Project Rating: Recommended

The overall project rating of Recommended is based on the strong financial plan and local efforts to adopt transit supportive land use policies and encourage transit oriented development at proposed station areas. The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 2000. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As 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. 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 Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro MPO and the Capital Area MPO have each adopted the Locally Preferred Alternative into their fiscally constrained long-range plans and the Phase I Regional Rail project is included in their respective 1998-2004 Transportation Improvement Program and North Carolina State Transportation Improvement Program. In January 1998, TTA initiated Preliminary Engineering and the preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). TTA rail alignment issues are currently being worked out with a number of participating agencies, including the North Carolina Railroad (NCRR), CSX Railroad, NCDOT Rail, and the Federal Railroad Administration. TTA anticipates completing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement in January 2001, and a Record of Decision on the Final EIS expected in December 2001.

TEA-21 Section 3030 (a) (68) authorizes the project for final design and construction. Through FY 2001, Congress has appropriated $41.6 million in Section 5309 New Starts funds for this project.


Unless otherwise noted, the following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTA's Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. N/A indicates that data is not available for a specific measure.

The project is evaluated as being in preliminary engineering. The project will be re-evaluated when it is ready to advance to final design, and for next year’s Annual Report on New Starts.


The Medium rating reflects primarily the positive efforts of TTA and local jurisdictions to promote transit-supportive development within the corridor

Mobility Improvements

Rating: Medium

TTA estimates that Phase 1 of the Regional Rail project will result in the following annual travel time savings:

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours) 5.7 million 4.0 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: High

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) decrease of 307 annual tons decrease of 66 annual tons
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) increase of 480 annual tons decrease of 486 annual tons
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) decrease of 14 annual tons decrease of 7 annual tons
Particulate Matter (PM10) 0 0
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) increase of 6,898 annual tons increase of 1,531 annual tons

The TTA estimates the proposed project will result in the following changes in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units – BTU).

Annual Energy Savings New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
BTU (millions) decrease of 75,136 million annual BTU decrease of 14,602 million annual BTU

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Medium

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

Operating Efficiencies No-Build TSM New Start
System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (1996) $0.36 $0.45 $0.41

Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 2000 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Low-Medium

TTA estimates the following cost-effectiveness indecies:

Cost Effectiveness New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger $9.80 $14.50

Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 2000 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Medium

The Medium land use rating reflects the generally low densities and poor pedestrian access along the corridor, but acknowledges the positive efforts of TTA and local jurisdictions to promote transit-supportive development within the corridor.

Existing Conditions: Existing land uses adjacent to proposed rail stations varies and includes low to medium-density residential, industrial, office development, and undeveloped or underutilized land. The corridor currently contains approximately 42 percent of the region’s population and 65 percent of its employment. Employment within 1/2 mile of proposed station areas is projected to increase from 68,000 in 1995 to 102,000 by the year 2025, and the number of households is forecast to increase from 10,500 to 17,900. Major activity centers in the proposed corridor include Duke Medical Center, North Carolina State University, Research Triangle Park (RTP), and the State Fairgrounds. However, because of the low density and poor pedestrian accessibility found along the corridor, many of these activity centers will rely largely on feeder bus services to access the proposed system.

Plans and Policies: TTA has developed a conceptual plan for station areas, entitled “Station Area Development Guidelines” and has distributed it among the various municipalities to encourage mixed and concentrated land use, adequate access and parking, and pedestrian-oriented station area environment at proposed station sites. The City of Durham has adopted an interim overlay district for transit station areas that include transit-supportive design requirements and development intensities, as well as restrictions on uses incompatible with transit. The City of Raleigh and the Town of Cary have also initiated station area planning efforts and have incorporated some mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly policies into their long range plans to promote transit station area development. Each of these jurisdictions has adopted transit oriented development guidelines consistent with TTA’s “Station Area Development Guidelines.” The Durham Comprehensive Plan defines a target of 25 percent future housing growth and 50 percent of employment growth to occur within the transit-oriented areas they've identified as Compact Neighborhoods. Three reuse/redevelopment projects are proposed in Raleigh and Durham within proposed station areas.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 50%

The current finance plan for the Regional Rail Project proposes a Section 5309 New Starts share of $337.3 million (50 percent), $14.0 million in CMAQ funding (1.9 percent), $146.7 million (20 percent) in State funds, $27.9 in right-of-way purchased with State funds (3.7 percent), and $188.6 million (25 percent of project costs) in local contributions.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High rating reflects the availability of committed local funding for the Non-Section 5309 New Starts share of capital costs and TTA’s financial capacity to implement the proposed investment.

TTA has faced challenges regarding CSX negotiations, which would change the capital financing plan.

Agency Financial Condition: TTA's capital financial condition is healthy, with strong cash and investment reserves. TTA receives funding from dedicated sources including rental car taxes and vehicle registration fees at a rate of $10 million per year. The agency currently operates a 90-bus system.

Cost Estimates and Contingencies: The capital cost estimate for the project has increased significantly as preliminary engineering has progressed and right-of-way needs have been identified. The cost-estimates and contingencies are reasonable for a project in the Preliminary Engineering stage of project development.

Existing and Committed Funding: Local capital funding is proposed to be generated from TTA’s dedicated 5% tax on rental vehicles (which will also be used to support project operations). This source is stable and reliable, and has been broadened to include property-hauling vehicles of up to 7,000 pounds. While the annual rate of growth in rental vehicle tax revenues has reached nearly 20 percent in recent years. The State of North Carolina is proposed to provide $174.67 million in capital costs and these funds are committed to the project.

New and Proposed Sources: No new capital funding sources are proposed for the Phase I Regional Rail project.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High rating acknowledges the project’s dedicated operating revenue stream and the capacity of the funding sources to meet the project’s operating and maintenance needs.

Agency Financial Condition: In recent years, TTA has experienced a balanced operating plan, a low but increasing farebox recovery rate, and increasing ridership and operating costs. The current overall operating condition of the agency is good. The agency has been averaging a 12.5 percent annual increase in systemwide operating costs. The proposed Phase 1 Regional Rail project by itself represents a 300 percent increase over the agency’s existing systemwide operating budget.

Operating Costs Estimates and Contingencies: Annual operations and maintenance costs for the completed Phase 1 Regional Rail project are projected at $9.4 million ($1997) when full revenue service begins in 2004. These estimates are reasonable, assuming a commuter rail system of the proposed network size and service levels.

Existing and Committed Funding: System operations are proposed to be funded with bus and rail fare revenues and with revenues generated from TTA's dedicated vehicle registration fee and rental vehicle tax. Passenger revenues are estimated to cover 20 percent of rail operating costs. The estimated fare revenue stream assumes significant increases in bus ridership.

New and Proposed Sources: No new operating revenues are proposed for the project.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
Appropriations to Date
Federal: Section 5309 New Starts $377.3 $41.6 million appropriated through FY 2001
Federal: CMAQ Funds $14.0


State: $174.6


Local: $188.6


Total: $754.7

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 of rail service from Durham to downtown Raleigh and from downtown Raleigh to North Raleigh, consisting of 16 stations.

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