TTA talks aim at ensuring aesthetics

The Triangle Transit Authority will hold its second round of discussions this month on the aesthetic design of 16 rail transit stations that will link Durham, Raleigh, Cary and Chapel Hill.

Last year, the TTA approved $800,000 for the Art in Transit Program to engage communities in developing the aesthetic aspects of the stations in their respective areas. The Art in Transit Program's first round of planning meetings was last month and attracted about 200 residents.

Although planning for the Regional Rail Transit Project began more than a decade ago, administrators are just beginning to explore the artistic side of the design process.

TTA planners will take the community's input and incorporate it into the design. Regional representation will then give more precise feedback, such as which artists should be commissioned. Ultimately, however, the TTA board must give its stamp of approval.

After the first round of discussions, planners said residents have been almost universally interested in expressing the areas' ethnic, racial and religious diversity through art.

Another popular theme has been the cultural and political histories of the neighborhoods, whether they be manifested in a celebration of jazz and blues heritage at the downtown Durham terminal or a portrayal of the capital's history at the Government Center station in Raleigh.

Planners are considering incorporating the natural history of the area into the design as well, including art of trees and wildlife that occupied the region before it was developed.

"The purpose of these public meetings is to get people to envision what the stations might look like," said Juanita Shearer-Swink, senior transportation planner. "There will be some [themes] that are consistent and some that vary."

Planners said community involvement has been a high priority from the beginning. "Because we have had such a collaborative process [in the early planning phases] we do enjoy a fair amount of public support, [although] there are people who believe it is not appropriate for government to provide public transportation," said Sandy Ogburn, TTA community relations manager.

The first 12 stations, running from Ninth Street in Durham to the Government Center in downtown Raleigh, are expected to open in Dec. 2007. Construction is scheduled to begin late next year or in early 2005, pending the receipt of a full funding grant agreement from the federal government. The grant agreement would cover half of the $724 million in expenditures--the remaining half has already been secured, equally split by state and local funding sources.

"There is always the chance when dealing with a legislative body some glitch will occur," Ogburn said, although she added planners were confident that legislators on the federal level will come through.

The TTA will host a second discussion focusing on the design of the Duke Medical Center and Ninth Street stations tonight at the Center for Documentary Studies at 5 p.m. All are welcome, but TTA asks that people RSVP for the meeting at 485-7519.


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