The proposed Durham Orange Light Rail is vitally important to the future of our region and our state. I say this as a Person County farmer and a downtown Durham property owner.
My greatest concern is the long-term viability of agriculture and farm land. In North Carolina there are an estimated 49,500 farms covering 8.4 million acres of land which have an agricultural economic impact of $76 billion a year. Durham and Orange County have approximately 600 farms; the Durham Farmers’ Market has 65 vendors that come from within a 70-mile area. Our local farms produce good, accessible food; they are the backbone of some of the Piedmont’s economies and communities. Further, they provide the high quality of life and beauty that North Carolina’s rural and natural landscape provide.
As a farmer I am committed to conserving and stewarding my family’s farm so I support transit alternatives that concentrate development and curb sprawl. I also recognize that choices in travel for all citizens are needed to achieve sustainable and equitable communities in our region. A light rail system that is safe, reliable and convenient does this. It will also improve air quality, reduce traffic congestion, and save billions of BTUs of energy every year it operates. I can think of no infrastructure project worthier of significant public investment.
I call on the leadership, public and private, to do what is necessary to make this project a reality. It has been a long time coming.