by Donna Martinez
Former Senior Writer and Editor, John Locke Foundation
The folks at Indyweek.com are very excited about the behemoth budget deal signed into law by President Trump. Why? Because despite talk that the president would cut funding to transit projects, the opposite occurred. That means federal funding for the Triangle’s proposed Durham/Orange light rail project.
The omnibus was indeed good for transit. Congress ignored President Trump’s demands to slash mass transit funding and instead went in the opposite direction. But while the local governments have long been eager to get this project rolling, the question has been state and federal funding. The state is a question mark because a) the GOP-run legislature doesn’t like rail and generally doesn’t like Durham, and they’ve tried to sabotage this thing before, and b) the DOLRT is asking for more money from the state than all but one other transit project. The feds are a question mark because a) Trump and b) it’s unclear how the feds will rate the DOLRT as it moves through the grant process. And without federal funding, there’s basically no way to make the numbers work.
I’m not opposed to rail, but I am opposed to unwise use of public resources. We are a suburban-urban area that doesn’t have the density needed to make rail a viable and wise expenditure.