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Sometimes I think the folks over at the Triangle Transit Authority must be living in ‘Cloud Coo-Coo Land.’ This morning there’s a picture in the newspaper of a spiffy ‘mock-up’ they’ve built – sitting in the middle of a Raleigh warehouse – of the engine of the train they want to build to bring ‘lite-rail’ to the Triangle. Only this isn’t one of those little model trains. It’s a full size replica of a real train car and I’m guessing but I’ll bet it cost at least $25,000 of taxpayers’ money.

Mayor Meeker has saddled taxpayers with a $200 million Convention Center and a $20 million downtown hotel but that’s small potatoes compared to what he wants to spend on the TTA. We’re talking about a cool billion dollars here.

Back when the TTA submitted its first request for funds to Washington (the Mayor wants Washington to pay $484 million of the billion dollars) even the federal government – which has funded everything from ski resorts in Idaho to cowboy museums – gagged. The Department of Transportation took one look at the TTA’s projections (which said how many people they calculated would ride lite-rail) and in effect, said, ‘No way. That’s way too high.’ They made the TTA redo the projections using a model Washington thought was more accurate. The result showed so few riders the TTA gagged and said no way. So, they’re reworking the numbers again, trying to find a third way to sell Mayor Meeker’s latest folly.

But that’s not all.

The TTA also says it should be exempt from the current standards transit authorities – like the TTA – have to meet to get federal bucks. Specifically, the TTA wants to be exempt from the new standards (which were probably implemented because Washington was funding too many mass transit systems that were losing money) and judged by the older – easier – standards.

Which I guess is where that picture of the train car comes in because – with Mayor Meeker’s help and taxpayers’ money – the TTA has been conducting a pretty effective P.R. campaign to convince everybody in Raleigh we can’t live without lite-rail. And all this culminated in a peculiar political twist about a week ago.

Back when federal officials tightened their standards for giving away money for rail projects Senator Elizabeth Dole spoke out for it. But now she’s decided it’s unfair to apply those standards to the TTA and joined Congressman David Price to seek a waiver – an exemption – for the TTA. (Mayor Meeker must be tickled to death.)

What’s peculiar, and encouraging, is fifteen local Republican leaders (in the State House) have – publicly – differed with Senator Dole and sent her a letter – coordinated by Apex Representative Paul Stam –calling the train project a ‘boondoggle’ and urging her to oppose the funding.

By the way, guess who’s law firm represents the TTA? That’s right – Mayor Charles Meekers.


Posted in: General, Raleigh
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One comment on “Mayor Meeker’s Folly – Part II – The Triangle Transit Authority

  1. cwrenn says:

    Dole doesn’t respond to her constitutents, either. I have sent her multiple emails asking her to vote against this boondoggle, as have many others. She doesn’t seem to listen.

    Usually, NC has 1 Dem and 1 GOP Senator. She seems to be fitting the bill for the Dem one.

    Comment by William Teach — December 5, 2005 @ 7:09 am

    TTA “Lite Rail:” What a Mess

    An interesting article in Sunday’s Raleigh News and Observer, written by Republican Political Strategist Carter Wrenn (Talking About Politics).Sometimes I think the folks over at the Triangle Transit Authority must be living in Cloud Coo-Coo Land. Thi…

    Trackback by Pirate’s Cove — December 5, 2005 @ 8:24 am

    1. This is not “light rail” nor “lite rail” by any of the definitions. It is commuter rail…look them up, they are different.

    2. Senator Dole responded to her Republican constituants and now does not support the project. David Price still is talking to FTA and the project is not dead by any means.

    3. This is not Meeker’s baby the way you imply…by any means. This was proposed way back when TTA first was formed….I think this was in the mid 1980s. Any reasonable mayor would support it – it is a great tool for economic development, especially downtown.

    4. If Raleigh does not get the FTA funding then some other region would. The FTA funds are from a small portion of the gas tax. This does not cost taxpayers money, it is costing SUV drivers money. And it should be – b/c they are the ones who’s cars will be obsolete in a few year and they will need to ride the train.

    5. If you think this project is a boondoggle why don’t you talk to your republican friends about 100s of billions of dollars being spent in alaska on a bridge to nowhere. literally. why don’t you talk to them about how highways cost taxpayers much more money per “rider” than transit, not to mention take up space. the paved area of the united states is the size of the state of Ohio…and growing. if you want room for your mcmansion estate in this country, you better start voting for rail.

    Comment by E-Lo — January 2, 2006 @ 5:03 pm

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