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Duke will not sign onto light rail cooperation agreement before Thursday deadline

<p>The proposed light rail would have a stop&nbsp;along Lasalle Street and&nbsp;Erwin Road near Duke Hospital.</p>

The proposed light rail would have a stop along Lasalle Street and Erwin Road near Duke Hospital.

Duke will not sign onto a cooperation agreement for the Durham-Orange Light Rail project before a Feb. 28 deadline

Duke joins North Carolina Railroad, according to a WRAL report, in not signing onto the plan. 

In a letter sent to GoTriangle Wednesday morning—signed by President Vincent Price, Chancellor for Health Affairs A. Eugene Washington and Executive Vice President Tallman Trask—the University said it would not sign on. 

"Significant efforts by many people from Duke and GoTriangle have been made over the past year to resolve a number of critical issues connected to the proposed Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit (DOLRT) project," the letter stated. "Notwithstanding these many good faith efforts, it has unfortunately not been possible to complete the extensive and detailed due diligence, by the deadlines imposed by the federal and state governments, that is required to satisfy Duke University's legal, ethical and fiduciary responsibilities to ensure the safety of patients, the integrity of research and continuity of our operations and activities."

For the current plan, Duke would have to donate land for the proposed route. 

In the letter, the University expressed lingering concerns about electromagnetic interference, vibration from the construction of a proposed elevated line near Duke Hospital and the Duke Eye Center, potential disruptions for utilities and power and liability, since Duke is a private institution. 

The letter said that Duke would "require insurance or indemnification in an amount high enough to protect Duke University's ability to operate as an ongoing entity" in the case of a "major disruption" to Duke's operations or tragedy as result of construction or operation of the light rail. The amount or form of that coverage was not able to be agreed on. 

"I know you understand Duke's highest priority is the health and safety of patients who have entrusted us with their care at the most perilous times of their lives," the letter stated. "The acceptable tolerance for risk in these circumstances must be as close to zero as possible, and we have an obligation to our patients and the community to uphold that standard."

Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, wrote in an email to The Chronicle that the Board of Trustees were briefed at their meeting this past weekend but took no action.

The letter concluded by re-affirming Duke's interest in working with GoTriangle.

"Duke remains dedicated to working with GoTriangle and our community to advance sustainable and workable public transit solutions that serve the needs of all citizens, especially those who depend on public transportation," the letter stated.


Check back for updates to this developing story.

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