RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A proposed commuter rail would connect areas of the Triangle from Durham to Garner or Clayton.

According to GoForwardNC, a partnership between transportation operators in Wake, Durham, and Orange counties, commuter trains would take “thousands of people comfortably and reliably” between their homes, work, or school frequently in the mornings and evenings and less often on off-peak hours on an existing rail corridor.

Promoters of the commuter rail investment say it’d be a convenient and cost-effective way to avoid traffic-heavy freeways and parking costs as the Triangle continues its rapid growth.

“No matter how congested our roads get, the train will always take the same amount of time, ensuring that people can get to work, school, and appointments on time. They also create development and housing opportunities for growing communities,” officials said.

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed in spring 2020 by GoTriangle, Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization, Wake County, Durham County, Johnston County, and the North Carolina Railroad Company.

Under the memorandum, GoTriangle became the project sponsor and is tasked with working out details with other authorities that have jurisdiction over portions of the project.

If elected officials choose to proceed with the project after this phase, GoTriangle will advertise additional opportunities for consulting services on project development, engineering, and construction management, among other areas, officials said.

The total project is expected to cost between $1.4 and $2.1 billion, according to the GoForwardNC website.

As of now, officials have estimated that the commuter rail would carry 7,500 to 10,000 passengers a day by 2030.

The commuter rail would carry employees, students, residents, and visitors to major regional destinations in the Triangle.

The service as proposed would require building new stations among stations that already exist in the Raleigh, Durham, and Cary downtown areas.

Exact station locations have not been chosen, but the preliminary studies have led to additional station candidate zones in West Durham, East Durham, Ellis Road, Research Triangle Park, Morrisville, West Raleigh/Corporate Center Drive, Blue Ridge Road, N.C. State University, Hammond Road, Garner, the Auburn area, and Clayton at N.C. 42.

The cost of riding will be set closer to opening, but fares should be comparable to riding the bus, officials said.

Another phase of the study is expected to take place with a range of stakeholders over the next 12 to 18 months to determine what infrastructure improvements are needed to add more train traffic to the rail corridor.

Stakeholders include residents, transit riders, the business community, local governments, universities, and other institutions and major employers along the rail line as well as the North Carolina Railroad Company, North Carolina Department of Transportation Rail Division, and operating railroads including Norfolk Southern and CSX. 

At the conclusion of the study, local elected officials, including the Boards of Commissioners for Wake, Durham, and Johnston counties, will decide whether to proceed with the project.