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The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has approved moving the Durham-Orange light-rail project into the engineering phase of the Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program. The news means the $2.47 billion project is eligible for $1 billion in federal funds, according to a press release issued by GoTriangle, which oversees transit in Wake, Durham and Orange counties in North Carolina.The FTA evaluated the light-rail project and issued favorable ratings in three major areas: local financial commitment, justification for the project and the project's engineering readiness. "This is great news for the people of Durham and Orange counties and the teams in both counties working so hard together to receive the federal approval needed to take the light-rail project from planning to construction," said Durham County Commissioner Ellen Reckhow, who also serves on GoTriangle's board.The federal government is expected to cover half of the project's design and construction costs. Local transit funds, state dollars and private contributions are expected to cover the remaining tab. The 17.7-mile light-rail line would run from University of North Carolina hospitals in Chapel Hill to North Carolina Central University in Durham. The route would include 18 stations.As for the project's next steps, GoTriangle will continue working with a general engineering consultant to complete the design work. The agency also will work with Durham and Orange county officials to advance the project so that the FTA is able to recommend federal funding by 2020, GoTriangle officials said.Construction is slated to start that year, with service beginning in 2028.
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