The 28.5km line will connect North Carolina Central University in Durham with UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, serving 18 stations - nine with park-and-ride facilities - and running on a dedicated alignment. Services will operate at 10-minute headways in the peak and every 20 minutes at other times.

The project plan will now be submitted to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for approval, which is required to enter the engineering phase. Research Triangle Regional Public Transportation Authority (GoTriangle) plans to seek federal funding to cover up to 50% of the $US 2.48bn construction cost.

Under the revised funding plan approved this week, Durham will meet 81.5% of the local cost, with the remainder coming from Orange County. Both counties will use a half-cent local sales tax to fund the project, which is due to be completed in 2028.

In addition to light rail, the updated transit plan also includes plans for a 60km commuter rail line linking Wake and Durham counties, although this $US 881m project is unlikely to be completed before 2037.

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