Ken Larsen's web site - March 7, 2017 DOLRT speech to BOCC by John Morris


This evening we are being pressured to make big decisions without the documentation we need and the time for thoughtful consideration. GoTriangle created this crisis. As manager of the light rail project, GoTriangle should have carefully kept up with the requirements of the Federal Transit Administration and should have provided Durham and Orange all supporting information and project deadlines well in advance of needed decisions.


Instead, FTA had to inform GoTriangle on February 16 that their application is fundamentally flawed. GoTriangle had out of date project costs and state contributions and lacked the required county funding commitments.


Even more disturbing, FTA said that a revised bus and rail plan and binding county funding commitments must be adopted by the end of April, even though GoTriangle had not scheduled this until June. This is incompetent and unprofessional management by GoTriangle.


Orange County has wisely called for an independent financial analysis of the light rail plan. It is critical that we understand the financial burdens that light rail will impose on us, especially now that a last minute financing change by GoTriangle includes almost a billion dollars of borrowing. These loans will weigh on us until 2062. We expect the County to make this report available to the public in mid April and to hold a public hearing on it.


The central problem is that the GoTriangle plan puts most of our transit dollars into this one big light rail project, which serves only a corner of Orange County and diverts funds away from projects that would serve more people.


Even worse, the light rail plan is extremely risky. Just yesterday, the federal government pulled funds back from a California rail project. State funds are shaky and may not come in at all. Costs may go up substantially. Any one of these changes would throw the project in the red. Orange County will then face the choice of either sacrificing other priorities by diverting general funds to rescue light rail, or of abandoning the many millions already spent. This is too big a risk for even a superior project. It is certainly too big a risk for one that is not a good fit for our needs.




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