FTA Rejects North Carolina Commuter Rail Funding

As commuter patterns shift, so too do the transit funding preferences of the federal government.

2 minute read

July 31, 2023, 5:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

A plan for a commuter rail system connecting the cities of Raleigh, Durham, and Cary in North Carolina, also known as the Triangle, won’t get the funding it needs from the federal government. According to recent reports, the rejection of the plan has everything to do with shifting commute patterns after the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Representatives of the Federal Transit Administration told a group of Triangle leaders that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how people use transit and that trains that serve morning and evening commuters to central business districts have become outdated,” reports Richard Stradling.

The FTA also told local officials that they would support bus rapid transit (BRT) investments instead. Sig Hutchinson, who heads the board of GoTriangle, the agency leading the commuter rail planning, is paraphrased in the article saying that the FTA will pay for half of qualifying BRT lines.

Construction is already underway on the region’s first BRT route, with plans for more. “The Wake Transit Plan approved by voters in 2016 calls for building four BRT lines radiating out from downtown Raleigh,” reports Stradling. “Construction on the first line along New Bern Avenue east to a park-and-ride lot on New Hope Road is expected to begin by the end of the year, said Het Patel, the city’s transit planning supervisor.”

The Triangle started planning the commuter rail system in 2020, shortly after Duke University helped scuttle a $3.3 billion, 17-mile light rail transit plan in early 2019. The commuter rail plan would have spanned 43 miles and cost $3.2 billion, with stops at 15 stations, according to a “Commuter Rail Feasibility Report” published by Go Triangle in January 2023.

Additional news coverage of the FTA’s rejection of funding for the Triangle’s commuter rail plans is available from Axios Raleigh. “We were told the FTA is no longer funding commuter rail,” Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin told Axios.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023 in The News & Observer

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