Mixed Reports on Triangle Rail: Repubs Giving Up on Project While Dems and Agency Fight On

I was sad all today. First, I was finishing up a 24-hour take home exam for lawschool (imagine actually trying to sleep during an exam), and then I woke to news from Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr that the proposed Triangle Rail Line is dead. The Triangle Rail Line is a proposed rail track between downtown Raleigh and downtown Durham, running through the Research Triangle Park. The track is desperately needed in one of the nation's largest metropolitan areas without a light rail or subway, and relatedly an area with large congestion problems. In fact property prices in South Glenwood, where one of the stops will be, are going much faster than the rest of the city. The plan for funding the line was for the federal government to pick up a substantial portion of the tab (as they do with most rail projects). Dole had supported the project and federal funding of it in the past, but now appears to be saying that the project is dead since it has not qualified for Federal funds. From News 14 Carolina yesterday:

Meanwhile, Senators Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr have issued a joint statement about the issue. Part of that statement reads, “We recognize that any transit project built with federal tax dollars must be thoroughly examined and rigorously reviewed to ensure established federal standards and goals are met. The rail project is likely not an option for the region. We therefore believe it is time for TTA to explore other possibilities."

I was bummed all day, and just because I forgot to not trust Dole or Burr. I had to wait until the end of the day to find out the truth.

Today David Price and the agency have responded to the comments by our undistinguished senators. They claim after their conversations with the federal agency in charge of funding (FTA) that federal funding is still a real option. The federal agency has merely placed the rail line on hold until more data is received from the Triangle Transit Authority (TTA). From David Price, in the Triangle Business Journal (here):

"FTA is most definitely not saying the project is dead," Price told Triangle Business Journal in a phone interview Thursday afternoon. He said FTA assigned a default rating of "low" to the project because TTA hasn't yet submitted additional information requested by the federal agency.

The project can be re-rated once the requested information is submitted to FTA, he says.

Price, who represents all or parts of Orange, Durham and Wake counties, also said he didn't hear the FTA say there were any issues with the project that couldn't be resolved. But he does acknowledge that much remains to be done to make the project eligible for a long-term federal funding commitment.

So our Democratic Representative is still fighting for the project while the Republicans have given up before the agency in charge of funding does. Why is there such a lack of commitment to our state from these two? Price was upset with the senators' decision to bail on the project as well:

"I am also saying that I think members of the congressional delegation need to be helpful in this," he says.

Price released his own press release on the matter in which he shows even more disgust at "North Carolina's" senators:

US Rep. David Price (NC-04) issued the following statement this afternoon:

“Recent press reports have suggested that the Triangle Transit Authority’s regional rail project may be ‘dead.’ Based on the latest information I have, that suggestion is not accurate.

“I met personally with the acting administrator of the FTA yesterday, and he told me that FTA wants to work with TTA to bring the Triangle commuter rail project to completion. I am therefore quite surprised a letter sent to TTA by other members of this delegation would indicate otherwise.

“At this time, FTA is waiting for additional information, and I am hopeful that TTA will provide it in short order. Once FTA has all the data, the project will be formally rated. Only then will we know whether the project is eligible for full federal funding. In the meantime, it is the responsibility of elected officials at every level of government to work together in a bipartisan way to facilitate the FTA review process.

“The Triangle will need mass transit in the decades ahead. Highways alone cannot fully address traffic congestion and its impact on our quality of life.”

Go Price! Boo Dole and Burr! It is sad when your senators do not even care enough to help with an important project in their own state. Anyone up for drafting Price to run against Dole in '08?