Ken Larsen's website - Financial side of Durham-Orange County Light Rail project (DOLRT)


As of April 2017 DOLRT has cost the counties of Orange and Durham Counties $ 38M.  That equates to an average of $1M per month for three years (2014-2016).  None of it has been spent on design and engineering.


GoTriangle Board of Trustees is scheduled to vote on submitting the $ 70M engineering contract on April 26, 2017.  This is to meet a Federal grant deadline.  [details]


Entering into engineering phase will commit another $70 million.  That equates to about $5 million per month for 14 months. 
All of this is with local tax dollars. If the Federal Government approves the full project, they will reimburse half.   If we pull out or the feds don't approve the project, then we lose it all.

The overall cost of the project is now estimated to be $2.5B. If you factor in loans and loan interest, the real cost is $ 3.3B.

Bonnie Hauser:  On a conference call on Friday February 17, 2017, GoTriangle revealed that the debt payments (principal plus interest) on the TIFIA loan in 2036 will be $19.6 million per year.  These payments are not disclosed in the FTA filing.   The payments are considered  “operating expenses” and not added to the $2.5 billion cost for the total project.    The TIFIA loan is $400 million and is in addition to the $535 million LOB loan. 

Here what that means:   DOLRT will cost $50 million a year to operate, and the annual debt payments ($20 million) will be nearly as much as the ENTIRE ANNUAL BUDGET of Chapel Hill Transit.  

Also, Orange and Durham will assume 100% of the project overrun risk and 100% of interest expenses incurred after 2035.   

TIFIA is a label for a form of financing for DOLRT.  There are two types of financing (bonds):

  • Limited Obligations Bonds ($535 million) which are more traditional loans.
  • TiFIA  ($400 million) is a long term loan with payments through 2062


The Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program provides Federal credit assistance in the form of direct loans, loan guarantees, and standby lines of credit to finance surface transportation projects of national and regional significance.  It has a low 1% rate.


In order to make DOLRT look like a viable financial plan, GoTriangle made a highly dubious assumption:  They assumed that sales tax revenue would grow at 4% per year from 2017 until the loans are paid off in 2062 ... 45 years.  This is total bullsh*t!  Orange County population is growing at around 1.1% per year.  GoTriangle made no adjustments for economic downturns/recessions.


The DOLRT financial plan is contingent upon the Federal government paying 50%, but if they provide that, it's only 50% of the cost.  The 50% does not apply to loans and maintenance.   The actual cost to the counties is 55% ... not 40%.  55% of $ 3.3B is $ 1.8B.


On top of all of this, $ 44M would have to be borrowed to keep DOLRT in a "state of good repair".  See 38:00 into the Davenport report at the April 4, 2017 BOCC meeting.



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