Durham County

Durham County Commissioners approve revised Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit cost-sharing agreement

The Durham County Board of Commissioners voted on Monday to approve a revised plan for the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project that would shrink both Durham and Orange counties share of the $3.3 billion project and push it one step closer to reality.

Under an earlier plan, Durham County would pay 82 percent and Orange County would pick up 18 percent of the nearly $1.9 billion local costs.

But under the revised plan, approved on Monday, Durham would pay 81.5 percent of the local costs, or $1.55 billion, and Orange County would pick up 16.5 percent, or around $316 million.

A public-private Funding and Community Collaborative offered to pay the remaining 2 percent through donations of cash and land for the rail system. The group, which has pledges for $18 million in land, set a goal earlier this week of raising $100 million in cash and land. The group’s 2 percent share is not guaranteed.

The 17.7-mile rail line would link 18 stations between UNC Hospitals and N.C. Central University. Six stations would be in Chapel Hill (three in Orange County on UNC land) and 12 in the city of Durham. The counties would pay part of the construction cost with revenues from a half-cent transit sales tax, car rental fees and vehicle registration fees. The remainder would be financed with $984 million in short- and long-term debt, repayable through 2062.

The Orange County Board of Commissioners plan to vote Thursday, April 27, on moving the light-rail project forward. The project plan, if approved, will be submitted to the Federal Transit Administration by April 30. FTA approval is required to enter the engineering phase — the next step in seeking federal grant money expected to cover 50 percent of the light-rail project’s $2.4 billion construction cost.

Chairwoman Wendy Jacobs called it “a historic vote.”

Zachery Eanes: 919-419-6684, @zeanes