As chair of the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization, which coordinates transportation planning in the western Triangle, I have the privilege of working with leaders of Durham and other local governments to plan the region’s transportation investments. The Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project is one of those investments. It is a high priority for our communities and the first project in the Triangle’s major public transit infrastructure.
As a longtime Duke employee, I have the privilege of working with researchers at the top of their fields and with Duke students, employees and alums whose vision and leadership are helping make the community a better place.
We need to see vision and leadership in Duke’s dealings with the people of Durham on the light rail project.
Over several years, the people of Durham and Orange Counties, through our tax dollars, have made multiple commitments to address questions from Duke administrators related to the light rail project.
We agreed to shift and elevate the tracks on Erwin Road. We agreed to move a station. We paid engineers to study alternative routes. We agreed to build a pedestrian connection between the Duke and VA hospitals. We agreed to include more technology to improve access to Duke Hospital. We continue to pay engineers to study other design modifications.
We made these changes at great expense—tens of millions of dollars—not because they are necessary to operate an excellent light rail service in Durham, but in response to Duke.
Today, Durham and its partners are counting on Duke to sign a cooperative agreement to bring into reality this transformative project that means so much for the future of the city and the region. We need a partner who will work with us in good faith, a partner who will make a true commitment to the community in which they live, a partner who will be a good citizen.
I hope and believe Duke can find a way to be that partner.
Damon Seils is mayor pro tem of Carrboro, chair of the board of the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization, and a longtime employee in the School of Medicine.
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