Chapel Hill Rapid Bus Line Slated for Federal Funding

A rapid bus transit line that will improve commute times to the University and area hospitals has been earmarked to receive $138.3 million in President Joe Biden’s budget request.

The funds, which are part of the White House’s fiscal 2025 federal budget request and must receive congressional approval, would support construction of the rapid bus transit line, which includes 17 stations along an 8.2-mile route with stops along Franklin Street, throughout Chapel Hill and at the UNC Medical Center. The total cost for the line is estimated to be $197 million, and it will cost $6.2 million a year to operate.

The rapid bus transit line has been a priority of Chapel Hill Transit, Chapel Hill, Carrboro and UNC for more than a decade, Brian Litchfield, director of Chapel Hill Transit, wrote in an email to the Review. “The project is a critical investment in improving transit and bike/pedestrian safety in a heavily used corridor and is important to all our partners’ transportation, mobility, safety, sustainability and environmental priorities,” he wrote.

The plan is among 14 major transportation projects in Biden’s budget request and is the only proposed project in North Carolina.

To date, 60 percent of Chapel Hill’s North South Bus Rapid Transit (NSBRT) project has been designed. The route will run from the Eubanks Road Park and Ride Lot to the Southern Village Park and Ride Lot. It will have dedicated buses arriving at higher frequency at the Southern Village Park and Ride Lot. The route will also have dedicated travel lanes and stations.

The buses will accommodate more riders than current transit options and will be equipped with onboard wireless internet, according to the NSBRT website. To help reduce emissions, the buses will be electric. Renderings of the bus stations show covered seating areas, improved pedestrian crossings and real-time schedule information.

Cities nationwide have developed rapid transit lines including Cleveland, Ohio; Fort Collins, Colorado; and Richmond, Virginia. In Raleigh, the Triangle’s first rapid bus transit line is under construction along New Bern Avenue.

Litchfield told the Review construction could begin as early as 2026 with service beginning in 2029, barring unexpected delays.

To learn more about the transit line, visit the NSBRT website.

— Cameron Hayes Fardy ’23

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