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The Durham-Orange light-rail project could come to a head this week as a deadline nears for seeking $1.24 billion from the Federal Transit Administration.

The 18-mile light-rail system would connect UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill with Duke and N.C. Central universities in Durham, and points in between. The state has set a deadline of April 30 for the local money to be in place, and Nov. 30 for the federal grant.

Light-rail trains are powered by an electrical current running from overhead catenary wires into the engine and returning through the rails to a traction power substation. The train’s movement also causes temporary changes in the earth’s geomagnetic field.

The processes combine to create electromagnetic interference, or EMI, which in large amounts can cause problems for sensitive equipment, like MRI and diagnostic scanners.

Veteran EMI consultant Charles Edelson said electromagnetic interference problems are rare, and there’s usually a solution. Edelson was part of a team in the 1980s that developed the federal transportation system for identifying EMI causes, symptoms and solutions.

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Where did this idea come from?

This story was inspired by a Viewpoint Christine Whaley wrote in August about SLO County residents’ lack of access to medical aid-in-dying services. After it published, Tribune reporter Lindsey Holden reached out to her to ask about sharing her experiences in a larger story.

Who did we talk to?

Reporters looked at three particular areas: Number of tickets by race for Kansas City residents, top types of tickets by race, and the number of tickets by home zip code compared to total tickets. We compared the racial data from the tickets to Census data for the city as a whole and for individual zip codes to find the scope of disparity.

Reporters then used the data to find people who are affected and interviewed them.

Analysis only goes so far, he said in a phone interview, while listening to details of the Durham-Orange project and EMI reports.

“We won’t know there’s a problem until they get the rail line in and start doing some testing,” Edelson said.

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