I got the email from President Price a few weeks ago. He said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Fuck Durham, amirite?”
Now, the Duke administration has plenty of reasons to hate Durham. Without Durham, Duke could flourish as the Ivory Tower it was meant to be. We wouldn’t have to deal with discussions about race, poverty, and the responsibility of North Carolina’s 3rd largest employer to support its workers. But the Light Rail is flawless. It would’ve created jobs, it would have run on sustainable energy, it would have provided necessary transportation to over 26,000 people a day. And sure, Duke students wouldn’t have used it (see Bull City Connector) but goddamn it if it doesn’t hurt my rich white savior complex to see it go down like this.
Price’s excuses just didn’t add up. “The railroad would be really shaky and that’s not good for hospitals.” But the Light Rail goes by UNC’s hospital too, and they raised no complaints. GoTriangle even offered to run the train on an elevated platform over Erwin Road, at considerable expense to the taxpayer. No, there had to be some other reason. So I started poking around. I started asking questions nobody else wanted to ask.
Questions like – what’s so special about Erwin Road?
Everyone in the Duke Administration wants to focus on it. Every time GoTriangle tried to bend over backwards for Duke, there was always a new excuse on why it wouldn’t work–on Erwin Road. Tallman Trask III even suggested in 2013 that the Light Rail would work, as long as it bulldozed through the historically black Crest St neighborhood instead.
A lot of people don’t know that Trask is Duke’s official Light-Rail liaison. He was one of the three, among President Price and Health Affairs Chancellor Eugene Washington, to sign the letter that killed the Light Rail. It goes further than that, though. Trask has been trying to shoot the plan down since the late 1990s, when it was first formed.
I went to Erwin Road late one night to reveal the truth. I had a hunch about what I would find, so I brought a shovel. At the corner of Erwin and Fulton, I started digging. I dug wide and shallow, covering as much ground as possible. It wasn’t long before I found the first finger, the nail sticking up through the dirt. Then I found another. Soon I realized I was in the middle of a mass grave–some of the bodies in the first stages of decomposition, others picked clean by maggots until they were just gleaming white bones.
The first time Trask got wide media attention was in 2014 when he hit a black woman with his car and drove off. Was anyone really surprised by this incident? His name is Tallman Trask III. That is the most comically evil white person name anyone has ever been christened with. Does anyone seriously believe this is the only time this has happened?
The unbelievable truth is that Tallman Trask has been running over black people (in his car) ever since he came to Duke 25 years ago. He’s been hiding the bodies, right on Duke’s campus, because he knows he’ll never be challenged. His parking permit lets him go anywhere.
The Light Rail posed two problems for Trask. First, construction on Erwin would reveal him as a killer; Trask probably wouldn’t lose his job, but Duke’s US News Ranking would plummet. Second, more people taking the train means fewer people walking to work–which means fewer people for him to slaughter with the fender of his shiny white Cadillac. So, backed into a corner, Tallman Trask III made the only choice he could. He killed the Light Rail like he killed all those innocent Durhamites buried out on Erwin Road.