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49er

Four TTA Rail stations canceled

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Maybe this is actually positive and the lower price tag will make things happen

TTA postpones four rail stations

By BRUCE SICELOFF, Staff Writer

With construction costs rising while revenue falls, the Triangle Transit Authority plans to postpone construction of three rail stations in North Raleigh and one at Duke Medical Center.

The TTA had been planning to open the four stops in 2011. But TTA General Manager John D. Claflin said today the agency will have to delay those plans to a date yet to be determined.

Claflin said today he still hopes to open the rail system's first 12 stations in 2008. Delaying the three stations in North Raleigh and one at Duke Medical Center will reduce project costs from $840 million to about $640 million, he said.

"We need to be realistic about what we can afford to build," Claflin said. He will ask TTA board members today to approve a design for the scaled-back project. With a reduced price, the TTA project would be stronger as it competes with other cities for federal money, and the TTA would be better able to finance its local share, he said.

The TTA is relying on local revenue to pay for 25 percent of the project's costs. That money comes from a 5 percent tax on car rentals in Wake, Durham and Orange counties. Car rentals increased between 1999 and 2001 but have declined since the September 2001 terrorist attack, leading to a drop in revenue for the TTA.

Sharp increases in steel and concrete prices have driven construction costs up this year.

Claflin said prospects for eventually building the North Raleigh and Duke Medical Center stations, and eventually extending mass transit service to Chapel Hill, will depend on improvement in the economy and on a healthier source of local revenue.

Charlotte is financing its light rail project with a half-cent sales tax. Triangle business and government leaders say they will seek legislative authority to levy an additional local tax to pay for the region's transit and road improvement needs.

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I read the news and I can't say I am thrilled, but on the other hand it may help the Feds to support the system even more. Although the first phase still remains as planned, it will be an easier sell to [temporarily] reduce the number of stations built. I am crossing my fingers that the prices of construction materials drop enough to make this project happen. Of course, the annual maintenance cost is what will kill us. I doubt very seriously we can operate a regional rail if the ridership is not high enough. I remain optimistic, but also down-to-earth. A lot will depend on how successful urban centers like TMC will be.

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I was really surprsied to see how little revenue the TTA was pulling in each year from its car tax. $6.8 Million a year! OK, lets do the math:

25% of $859M is $214.75M...and using the $6.8M a year to pay that off equals 31.5 years to pay for the original system! 31 freaking years! No wonder they had to cut back.

Lets look at the math on the proposed new TTA system:

25% of $664M is $166M...and using the $6.8M a year to pay that off equals 24 years. Which to me that is still too high...which that makes sense they are looking for other funding sources.

If they setup a similar funding formula to CATS...then they should expect to bring in $50M a year...

Lets look at the math on the South Light Rail line:

25% of $398M is $99.5M..and using the $50M a year to pay that off equals 2 years.

I think that illistrates TTAs funding problems quite starkly.

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That is the reason why I am not upset with the Feds for not committing to TTA's plan 100% of their support. Triangle is not there, yet, and this is the reason many people in this area give this plan a second thought. We must say Yes to transportation options, but at a pace that the area can absorb, and not at a price tag that we can't afford.

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With so many centers of activity in the Triangle, its going to be hard to create a strong system that actually goes places people want to go. I think it is good that theres a station at the fairgrounds so that people can attend events there as well as at Carter Finley and RBC Center.

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Correct observation, 49er. It will be hard to promote more stations if the destinations are not there. At least, TMC is a good start and will provide some guidelines for future developments. Of course, it will be fatal to place all of our hopes on TMC; I think that one area with massive potential is NCSU and the intersection of Western Blvd and Avent Ferry Rd. They are getting ready to build a Kroger at Mission Valley Shopping Center as well as another building, if the final approval comes from the city. Here is an excerpt from an older article:

The project includes tearing down the Blockbuster video store and building a 40,000-square-foot grocery store on the site. The building will be two stories because of the site's topography. The store will occupy the upper level, which will span about 27,000 square feet. Storage and loading will be in the lower level.

Blockbuster, which is now about 5,100 square feet, would move to a new two-story building planned near the middle of the center. The new Blockbuster would be on the upper level. The lower level, which will total about 3,000 square feet, will make room for two new shops, possibly a restaurant or coffee shop with outdoor seating.

Besides the nearby Centennial Campus, there is also a new development that is nearing completion: the Wolfpack Housing project:

WolfpackHousing6%20lg.jpg

If you asked me 6 years ago, when I was still living near that area, I would have never thought that things would have moved forward, but today I have a different view. I think that the increasing density will bring the kind of projects that will provide a more urban feel, although we are not talking about NE-type of urbanization. If that area gets even more residential projects, chances are other similar development will appear near other stations. Then, TTA's plan will make more sense and gain more support and momentum.

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The new NCSU housing at Avent Ferry and Western looks really nice. I like it a lot.

All of the housing around State has been pretty impressive.

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This is just another setback when it comes to transportation options in the Raleigh/Durham. That means people headed to work at Duke Med will have to take the slow DATA buses. And people in North Raleigh will end up still having to drive down Capitol Blvd. to one of the two downtown stations, and CAT service is limited - the bus route on this street runs 60 minutes monday thru saturday, with no sunday service. If road funds were at least subsidized, TTA Regional Rail could have been up and running in 4 years with all 16 stations. But with just 13 remaining stations, this could mean transit options by bus would have little or no change in the areas mentioned.

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One of the key decisions will be to consolidate the Triangle's 6 different bus systems into one. Lately, there has been lots of talk about it and I think we've reached the point that there is little choice but to go that direction. I am wondering if the breaking of the Triangle into 2 major metro areas (Raleigh-Cary and Durham-Chapel Hill) has caused some delays to TTA's regional rail plans. I can see the bus system improving (can't get much worse, anyway), but only if the regional rail comes to life. Many stations will need to be connected with major destinations via buses.

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