Durham-Orange light rail postmortem

Every day is a brand new news cycle, both nationally and in North Carolina. And it really doesn’t seem right to kick somebody–or something– when it’s down. However, I think the Antiplanner’s postmortem on the ill-fated Durham-Orange light rail project—entitled Death of a Megafolly– is worth noting:

What makes Durham leaders think they need rail transit anyway? Not counting streetcar lines in Little Rock and Kenosha, the smallest urban area to have some form of rail transit is Albuquerque, population 760,000. (New Haven, Ogden, and Provo also have rail transit lines connecting them to larger cities.) The Durham urban area has just 389,000 residents. The Omaha, Fresno, Colorado Springs, Bakersfield, Madison, Spokane, and Boise urban areas, among many others, are all larger than that.

….Obviously, there’s something wrong with our transportation planning system that it takes so long to do a project. But there’s also something wrong with our planning system that an idiotic project like this one would get so far along before leading decision makers said, “This is a stupid waste of money; let’s do something more sensible.” Unfortunately, GoTriangle’s cancellation will just see federal funds reprogrammed into some other megafolly. But at least Durham and Orange county taxpayers can thank Duke for finally stopping this one.

I’m not sure I can add much to that, other than to say perhaps the experience in Durham should serve as a cautionary tale for other local governments. Unfortunately they never seem to take heed.

Sam Hieb / Contributing Editor

Sam Hieb is freelance journalist from Greensboro, North Carolina. He is a contributing editor for Carolina Journal and for Piedmont Publius, a blog that focuses on political a...

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