Duke People’s State of the University organized a rally Friday to protest Duke's decision to not sign the light rail cooperation agreement.
On Wednesday, GoTriangle announced they would stop pursuing the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project—citing rising costs, state-imposed deadlines and lack of support from local stakeholders. PSOTU still decided to go through with the rally scheduled for Friday to protest the University's decision not to sign the cooperation agreement.
The light rail was a proposed $3.3 billion transit project designed to connect Duke, North Carolina Central University and UNC Chapel Hill. Gathered outside the Allen Building on West Campus, Duke students, professors and members of the Durham community spoke at the rally.
“Some of my friends asked me why this rally was happening if the light rail is dead," said junior Ariyani Challapalli, president of the Duke Climate Coalition. "My answer is that the light rail might be over but that does not mean that its implications for the community have ended. That doesn’t mean that we get to forget about all of the Duke-Durham issues it brought to the surface."
Bennett Carpenter, Ph.D. candidate in literature, remarked how $130 million has already been spent on project studies and impact studies.
According to Mayor Pro Tempore Jillian Johnson, Trinity '03, the light rail project was going to be "the first piece of a large transit plan."
“In addition, this $1.2 billion in federal funding was just free money that was going to kickstart this fabulous economic development, affordable housing and sustainable transit project that we’ve now lost,” Johnson said.
Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, declined to comment on the rally in an email to The Chronicle on Sunday.
Junior Gino Nuzzolillo, a PSOTU organizer and columnist for The Chronicle, cited the construction of the East-West freeway, which he said destroyed the historically black neighborhood of Hayti. Former Duke President Terry Sanford was instrumental in ensuring the freeway did not cut through Duke property, he added.
Bob Korstad, professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy, also spoke of the long history of Duke students and staff advocating for the rights of the Durham community, noting how this rally was occurring in the year of the 50th anniversary of the Allen Building Takeover in 1969.
“We’re not here because we hate Duke, if we hated Duke we wouldn’t show up," said Kevin Primus, Trinity '94 and M.A. '01. "But we’re not going to allow Duke to continue to dig a hole in quick sand with our national reputation."
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