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Transit | Orange County commissioners show support for lower share of Durham-Orange light-rail transit costs

A plan reducing Orange County’s share of the Durham-Orange Light-Rail plan’s $3.3 billion cost won support Thursday but also raised questions about the county’s options if something goes wrong.

The Durham County Board of Commissioners will vote Monday, April 24, on a revised transit plan, financial model and cost-sharing agreement with Orange County. The Orange County Board of Commissioners will vote Thursday, April 27.

The public won’t be able to weigh in at Thursday’s meeting but can email comments to OCBOCC@orangecountync.gov.

The decisions are required by April 30 to meet a Federal Transit Administration deadline for moving the light-rail project into the engineering phase. The project, if the FTA agrees, will move another step closer to seeking federal money for half of the $2.5 billion construction cost.

The project’s total cost, including interest on planned loans, would be $3.3 billion through 2062.

Durham and Orange counties will ask the state to pay up to 10 percent of the construction cost, leaving the counties to split nearly $1.9 billion.

The current agreement requires Durham County to pay 77 percent of the local cost and Orange County to pay 23 percent, based on how much of the 17.7-mile light-rail system is in each county. The system would link 18 stations from UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill to N.C. Central University in Durham.

However, Orange County’s commissioners expressed interest Thursday in pursuing the latest renegotiated proposal. The suggested split would require Durham County to pay 81.5 percent of the local cost, or about $1.55 billion, and Orange County to pay 16.5 percent, or roughly $316 million.

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