Duke University won’t allow a portion of a proposed 17.7-mile light-rail line to pass through its campus. The decision effectively kills the project.
““This is a major setback for the Durham and Orange county communities and the entire Triangle region,” said officials from GoTriangle, the agency tasked with building the $3.3 billion line that would link UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, downtown Durham and N.C. Central University. Duke’s decision means the project will miss a federal deadline, almost certainly sinking the deal.
The death of the project comes as bad news for contractors and subcontractors who were looking forward to building the line, which involved a fair amount of complex work including three miles of track spanning 16 bridge structures. In August 2017, GoTriangle chose Omaha-based HDR to lead final design and project management of the system. HDR Transit was slated to design all of the bridges and lead engineering and architecture for infrastructure along the entire alignment, which includes 18 stations, a parking garage and a maintenance facility. In addition, HDR is leading track design, traffic management, utility relocation, site planning and roadway design. HDR also performed environmental studies and geotechnical engineering in earlier phases of this project.
Duke President Vincent Price, Duke Executive Vice President Tallman Trask III and Duke University Health System President and CEO A. Eugene Washington notified GoTriangle of Duke’s decision in a letter sent Wednesday (Feb. 27), according to local media reports. ““Notwithstanding these many good-faith efforts, it has unfortunately not been possible to complete the extensive and detailed due diligence, by the deadlines imposed by the federal and state governments, that is required to satisfy Duke University’s, legal, ethical and fiduciary responsibilities to ensure the safety of patients, the integrity of research, and continuity of our operations and activities,” the letter said.
Duke’s decision comes just days after GoTriangle and local transit activists warned that Duke had clearly soured on the light-rail plan. Key university executives had begun to miss meetings and express “bizarre contradictions, complications, and a general dissatisfaction” with the plan.
Elsewhere in North Carolina, transit advocates won a victory. Charlotte’s Metropolitan Transit Commission approved a plan to build the Silver Line, a light-rail like that would run from Park Street and Highway 75 in the town of Belmont to the Central Piedmont Community College Levine campus in Matthews, N.C.