Executive Watch: Cooper Backs Light Rail

Executive Watch: Cooper Backs Light Rail

Green transportation advocates chalked up a win last week, when Governor Cooper included the Durham-Orange light rail transit link among eight major transportation infrastructure projects he supports.

Projection of future Orange-Durham County ligh trail (photo credit WUNC)

Cooper submitted the list to the National Governors Association for inclusion in a package of projects they’ve recommended to the Trump Administration. The eight NC projects were on their list of 428 “shovel ready” infrastructure projects around the nation.

The 18-mile light rail line from Durham to Chapel Hill has local funding approved by the voters in both counties, but its planners are working to fill a large funding gap created by the legislature. The state legislature has placed an artificial 10% cap on the percentage of funding for light rail projects which can come from state money.

That special cap provision applies only to light rail. Why doesn’t the same cap apply to other transportation projects, like new interstates and toll roads? Frankly, some of our state’s most powerful current legislative leaders prefer simply adding roads to creating a more environmentally friendly mix of options. They’ve also barred any state transportation program funds from going to bike/pedestrian projects.

This is why we need more public involvement and more competitive legislative districts, so that elected officials feel the need to listen to more than one perspective in key policy-making.

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