It’s been nearly a year since the N.C. General Assembly passed House Bill 148, the “Congestion Relief/Intermodal Transport Fund” – legislation aimed at creating a regional mass transit system for both the Triangle and the Triad. Two of the law’s main tenants call for:
- The counties to levy a ½ cent sales tax which must be approved by voter referendum
- The board of commissioners of each county and each area’s metropolitan planning organization for transit (MPOs), like Triangle Transit, to approve a transit plan before the referendum
While thoughts like catching a light rail train from downtown Raleigh to a Durham Bulls game runs rampant in our heads, New Raleigh caught up with Raleigh City Councilman and ardent proponent of mass transit, Thomas Crowder, to see where we’re at in this process.
According to Crowder, various groups like Triangle Transit, CAT, and the county are currently assessing ridership data, existing infrastructure, etc., while researching answers to questions like which set of rails to take approaching the Raleigh Union Station – Norfolk Southern route via Glenwood Yard on the west side of Capital Blvd. or CSX route on the east side of Capital Blvd.
Once complete, the plans will become open for a period of public commentary, likely “this summer, August through October,” commented Crowder.
“There’s going to have to be a lot of education with the public,” continued Crowder. “I think the public is going to want to know, what is this going to fund?”
After the public commentary period closes and the plans have been finalized, voters must approve a half-cent sales tax to fund the plans through a county-wide referendum. When asked when that would take place, Crowder commented “We probably won’t see a referendum until 2011. It’s all going to be a timing issue due to current economics. When is the right time to come for a referendum?”
When asked what (if any) implications federal stimulus dollars for high-speed rail have on the Triangle’s efforts, Crowder said, “I think it’s huge. That high speed rail connection is one of the major things we’re missing and is critical to becoming a major city.”
“If we’re going to have high-speed rail coming into Raleigh, we need to make sure we have light rail service coming in from Chapel Hill and Durham. Having that linkage with light rail, and then being able to get on high-speed rail here in Raleigh and arrive in Washington D.C. in 4 hours is key for attracting other businesses.”
Crowder’s expectations on when we will see either high-speed or light rail? 10-15 years.
Until then, he and others will continue promoting a regional vision, one that links Wake, Durham and Orange Counties.