In an email to the Duke community Thursday afternoon, President Vincent Price addressed the University’s decision not to sign the cooperation agreement for the Durham-Orange Light Rail project.
Price wrote in the email that the project required Duke to make financial and land commitments that were “unacceptable risks” to patient safety and “continued viability” of the University’s research and health initiatives.
To meet these requirements under the imposed deadline for the light rail project would be contrary to the University’s responsibility to “act prudently in our institutional and public interest,” the president said in the statement.
“While I know that the course of this particular project has caused some to question our commitment to Durham, which pains me greatly, my pledge to serve our community has never been stronger and will only grow,” Price wrote in the email.
The deadline to sign the agreement was Thursday, and the University sent a letter to GoTriangle on Wednesday informing them that Duke would not sign on.
Although Duke will not sign the agreement for the project due to concerns like patient safety, Price wrote that the University remains committed to its relationship with Durham.
"Duke enthusiastically supports the creation of a comprehensive regional transit network for our dynamic and diverse area, one that serves everyone and makes the best and effective use of all modes of transportation and new technologies," the president wrote. "We recognize the transformative effect such a plan could have on members of our community, particularly those in underserved parts of the region. It is a high priority for the continued vitality of the Triangle, and we recommit our time and attention to seeking innovative and sustainable solutions."
Price encouraged the Duke community to learn more about the University’s specific concerns with the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project in a Thursday news release.
Among the concerns cited in it was that electromagnetic interference from the train could interfere with patient care and certain research devices, excessive vibrations during construction in the vicinity of Duke Hospital and affiliated clinics, potential disruption to the power supply in the area and the University’s liability for incidents related to those issues.
“The fact remains that the proposed DOLRT alignment down Erwin Road is too risky, and potentially dangerous, to the health, safety and livelihood of too many people in this community, and the future viability of the medical and research enterprise at Duke,” the University’s statement said.
In a town hall last week, Durham Mayor Steve Schewel underlined the importance of Duke’s decision.
“If we don’t have these agreements signed by February 28, a 15-year effort to fund and build the light rail will die a sudden death,” Schewel said in the town hall.
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The full text of the email can be viewed below: