Taxpayers scratching their heads over cost of failed Durham-Orange light rail

There’s really not much I can add to WRAL’s lede:

Some taxpayers in Durham and Orange counties are wondering why nearly $159 million of their dollars will be spent on a light rail project that will not happen.

A couple of things to keep in mind here–voters in both Durham and Orange counties approved a half-cent sales tax increase “to invest in enhanced transit service in both counties.” Yes–better bus service and improved stops and shelters were part of that “enhanced service,” but the light rail line was the issue voters were contemplating at the ballot box. Those who voted in favor have no one but themselves to blame.

Then there is the matter of money spent versus the scope of the entire project:

John Tallmadge, the interim director of the Durham-Orange Light Rail project, said the spending was reasonable given the phase of the project. Without it, he said, there was no way to secure a $1.2 billion federal grant that would have funded nearly half the light rail line.

“We were very close to construction, and on a $2.5 billion project, you’ve got to spend this kind of money in order to get to where we were in the process,” Tallmadge said.

Small consolation, I realize. But for years now JLF has been figuratively screaming at the top of our lungs about the huge financial costs—with very little return– of light rail projects, especially here in low-density North Carolina. Sometimes it just gets to the point where there’s nothing else to say–just let the situation speak for itself.

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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