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Letter: Reasons not to support the light rail project

My name is Amy Petty and I am a 7th year M.D./Ph.D. student at the School of Medicine. I saw that Duke Chronicle recently published the petition from a bunch of M.P.P. and M.D. students asking Price to join in on the light rail project. However, I feel that Duke Chronicle needs to give a people who oppose the current plan or at least have concerns about the current plan a voice as well. I happen to be one of them. In concept, I also support the light rail but there are many behind the scene facts that I don’t think a lot of students are aware of, including:

1. They plan to put the railyard/maintenance facility within 0.25 miles of one of Durham’s biggest elementary schools and right across the street from a retirement community, in the middle of a residential neighborhood. The noise impact alone is harmful to these children in many ways, let alone the harsh chemicals and solvents they will be using. Despite the city planning committee voting 4-4 and not recommending this plan, the Durham city council voted to rezone this property to industrial on Monday, showing frank disregards for the surrounding neighborhoods and the school. The council and the mayor also refused to delay the vote until an independent noise has been done to assess the consequences this railyard can potentially have on the school and surrounding residents. Lastly but not unimportantly, they obtained the light rail yard location property from local African Americans through eminent domain, a way for government to take private property from citizens at a much lower cost.

2. As a student in the M.D./Ph.D. program, I have had the privilege to work in the main Duke hospital, the VA, as well as in many of the research buildings (Jones, MSRBI, MSRB2, etc.) along research drive in the past 7 years. Having the light rail construction near our main hospital, as well as all the research buildings where patients are being taken care of and cutting edge research activities are going on to provide the best care for our patients, will prove to be very destructive. The Duke Children’s Hospital building is also right against the street on Erwin Road where many children undergoing chemotherapy are receiving their treatments. Extensive medical research has shown the harmful effects of noise on children’s cognitive and physical development. As a world renowned hospital, we have every responsibility to provide the best environment for them to heal and to grow. Having a construction project that could go on for years will not only negatively impact these children and all the other patients in the hospital, but also create many barriers to all the medical staff who commute to the hospital every day. Many medical staff and researchers I have spoken to who work in buildings adjacent to Erwin Road have expressed their concerns about this plan. As of now, GoTriangle’s plan to mitigate traffic congestion and noise is far from enough.

I am a big supporter of clean energy and believe that this light rail will have many positive impacts on the growth and development of the Triangle area. However, as a community, we will be spending millions of dollars to build this light rail and need a plan that has the least destructive environmental impacts on its residents. It is a huge project for the city and its people. We should definitely not rush into things, especially when our concerns have not been addressed. As the plan current stands, I, along with many Duke and Durham residents, cannot support it.  

If you have any questions for me, feel free to contact me anytime.

Amy J. Petty

Amy Petty is 7th year M.D./Ph.D. student in the school of medicine.


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