From the N&O yesterday:
Durham County now says it can fill a $57.6 million state funding gap for the Durham-Orange light rail project.
The Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit is an 18-stop, 17.7-mile line that will run from UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill to N.C. Central University in Durham, with stops along the way including Duke University and downtown Durham. Most of the line is in Durham…
Now Durham County has determined it has enough money in its dedicated local transit revenues, Jacobs wrote.
“Based on updated modeling with still conservative estimates, Durham County’s dedicated transit revenues are robust and sufficient to cover the revenue shortfall,” she wrote. “Durham County is committed to using these additional funds for this purpose.”
The total project cost, according to GoTriangle, is $2.5 billion, and $29 million each year to operate the rail line. Another $890 million in local money would pay the interest on debt. (emphasis added)
We’ve written many times over the past couple of years about this wildly overpriced boondoggle.
Keep in mind, the price tag as recently as 2016 for this project was $1.6 billion. The latest estimate of $2.5 billion represents an increase of 56% in estimated costs – before the project has even broken ground.
And about those costs….good economists know all costs are opportunity costs. So to put this light rail project in perspective, what are some alternative uses for $2.5 billion?
This light rail line is projected to costs $139 million per mile to build. According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, 4-lane urban highways can be built for approximately $8-$10 million per mile. The Durham-Orange Light Rail line is about fourteen times more expensive per mile than an average four-lane highway.
For the same amount of money, DOT could build nearly 250 miles worth of four-lane highways.
Bottom line: this light rail project is a crony boondoggle intended to enrich contractors and developers – at massive taxpayer expense – and will serve a tiny fraction of travelers.