Ken Larsen's web site - Problems with Light Rail at-grade crossings


(May 22, 2017) Click here for a 3 minute video that sums up this issue.


This is the image GoTriangle wants you to have about Light Rail:



It shows a train whizzing along unimpeded by and safely away from car traffic ... which is shown to be minimal in this picture "thanks" to the use of Light Rail.


This is an image GoTriangle does not want you to see:



It shows what can happen at an "at-grade" crossing.  An "at grade" crossing is one where a train crosses a street on the same level as the street ... as opposed to crossing via a bridge over the street. 

To minimize the likelihood of collisions with cars, barriers and bells will be installed at each of DOLRT's at-grade crossings.  See
this video of an at-grade crossing in Denver.  Note that car traffic is held up and there is bell ringing for 50 seconds. 

The DOLRT will have numerous at-grade crossings, and there will be 150 trains crossings at each every day.  That equates to two hours of traffic blocking and noise at each at-grade crossing each day. That's a lot of snarled traffic and noise.  The 150 number may actually be low, because on January 24, 2017 GoTriangle's Danny Rogers told the BOCC that train intervals may be lowered from every 10 minutes to every 7.5 minutes to compensate to the proposed reduction in the size of a train. 


Here is a 3 minute speech I gave on at-grade crossings at a Orange County Board of Commissioners meeting on March 7, 2017.


It should be noted that one of the main arguments in favor of DOLRT is that it will attract investment ... adding density and jobs along the DOLRT route.  That's all the more reason to worry about at-grade crossings.  Higher density will increase the likilhood of calamity.  The only way to avert such calamity is to not build at-grade crossings.  Build bridges instead.  That's called "grade separation".  However, if you do that, then the cost of DOLRT would rise dramatically.  The high cost of the DOLRT is already a controversial subject.


The NC DOT (Department of Transportation) is working to remove at-grade crossings for railroads because of their hazards.  [details]


Here are the train/car intersection portions of the DOLRT:  [It's based on this map which can be zoomed in on to show streets.]





  UNC/NC 54
1 Mason Farm Road at-grade crossing
2 UNC Hibbard Drive bridge


Baity Hill Drive

at-grade crossing

4 Manning Drive bridge
5 Carmichael Street bridge
6 Fordham Blvd (15-501) bridge


Finley Golf Course Road at its intersection with Prestwick Road

at-grade crossing


Friday Center Drive #1 (south of 54)

at-grade crossing

9 Friday Center Drive #2 (south of 54) near the park and ride lot at-grade crossing


Barbee Chapel Road south of NC 54

at-grade crossing


Little John Road south of NC 54

at-grade crossing

12 Downing Creek Parkway south of NC 54 at-grade crossing
13 Route 54 bridge


George King Road (Realigned) west of New North-South Connector

at-grade crossing

15 Wendell Road at-grade crossing
16 Crescent Drive at-grade crossing


Farrington Road south of Wendell Road

at-grade crossing

  University Drive/US 15-501
18 Farrington Road (2nd crossing) underpass


Pope Road (a rotary will be built at intersection with Old Chapel Hill Road)

at-grade crossing

20 Old Chapel Hill Road at-grade crossing
21 I-40 plus 2 exit ramps bridges
22 Mt. Moriah Road bridge
23 McFarland Drive bridge
24 Duke Med Drive (two of them) bridge
25 Honeycutt Drive bridge


Witherspoon Boulevard

at-grade crossing


Southwest Durham Parkway

at-grade crossing


Garrett Road


29 unnamed road which runs from Garrett Road to Durham Chapel Hill Blvd bridge


Snow Crest Trail at University Drive

at-grade median-running


University Drive (from Ivy Creek Blvd to Shannon Road)

Along the way it crosses:

  • Larchmont road

  • Martin Luther King Jr Parkway

  • Lyckan Drive

  • Westgate Drive

at-grade median-running


Shannon Road

runs along north side

33 Mayfair Street bridge
34 Durham Chapel Hill Blvd bridge
35 Conifer Glen Lane at-grade crossing


Pickett Road

at-grade crossing


Western Bypass Road

at-grade crossing

38 West Cornwallis Road bridge
  Erwin Road
39 Cameron Blvd at-grade crossing


Erwin Road (beginning at Cameron blvd)


Along the way it passes intersections from:

  • Center for Living (CFL) Drive

  • Morreene Road/Towerview Road

  • Lambeth Circle

  • South Lasalle Street

  • Downing Street

  • Douglas Street/Research Drive

  • Eye Center Drive

  • Fulton Street

  • Emergency Drive

  • Trent Drive

  • Flowers Drive

  • Anderson Street

at-grade median-running

41 Route 147 bridge
42 Erwin Road / 9th Street bridge
43 Case Street bridge
44 Swift Avenue bridge
45 Powe Street bridge
46 Campus Drive bridge
  Downtown Durham
47 South Buchanan Boulevard at-grade crossing
48 Wilkerson Avenue south of Pettrigrew Street bridge
49 South Gregson Street south of Pettigrew Street at-grade crossing
50 South Duke Street north of Memorial Street at-grade crossing
51 West Chapel Hill Street at Pettigrew Street at-grade crossing
52 West Pettigrew Steet at-grade crossing
53 Blackwell Street / Corcoran Street at Pettigrew Street at-grade crossing
54 South Mangum Street at Pettigrew Street at-grade crossing
55 South Roxboro Street at Pettigrew Street at-grade crossing
56 South Dillard Street at Pettigrew Street at-grade crossing
57 Fayetteville Street at Pettigrew Street at-grade crossing
58 Ramseur Street /Grant Street at-grade crossing
59 East Pettigrew Street at-grade crossing
60 Colfax Street at-grade crossing
61 Murphey Street at-grade crossing
62 I-147 bridge
63 Linwood Avenue at-grade crossing
64 Massey Avenue at-grade crossing
65 Price Avenue at-grade crossing
66 Cox Avenue at-grade crossing
67 Dupree Street at-grade crossing


"bridge" = bridge over road (aka "aerial").  This is the best crossing, because there is no interference between trains and cars.


"at-grade crossing" = Light rail crosses a street.  Each such crossing will have barriers and a bell.  Traffic will be interrupted for 50 seconds while train crosses.  Cars must not pause in such an area, because a train may come by at any time. 


"at-grade median-running" = Light Rail runs down a median strip in a street.  It's at street level.  Erwin Road will be widened on both sides to accommodate light rail in the middle.


"Street-running" = Light Rail runs along a street and shares the street with pedestrians, cars, and trucks.  It's similar to median-running.


"underpass" = not technically a tunnel according to GoTriangle's Geoff Green (as told to resident Andrew Johnson on March 1, 2019): "The light-rail underpass is not considered to be a tunnel due to its relatively short length. It is proposed to be constructed using pre-cast concrete arch segments."


Proposed campaign poster for DOLRT:



Ken Larsen's home page