Long road ahead to bring light rail to Virginia Beach

Posted at 8:30 PM, Apr 25, 2012
and last updated 2012-04-25 20:30:10-04

There are a lot of opinions when it comes to bringing light rail to Virginia Beach.

Some people love the idea.

"I think they'd be crazy not to bring it to Virginia Beach," said Kelly Smith.

Others have mixed views.

"I would hope that it would come all the way to the oceanfront so I wouldn't have to ride roads with potholes and it would save gas and money.  Other than that, I think it would make access too easy for hoodlums to get to the beach," said Ryan Maichel.

To gauge all those opinions, the Virginia Beach City Council voted Tuesday night to hold a public referendum in November.

But even if voters say "yes" to bringing The Tide to the beach - it's not a done deal.

The project would still have to be approved by city council and they would have to secure federal funding.

To qualify for the money, the federal government requires the city to go through a regimented process.

It starts with completing the study already being conducted.  It's expected to be finished in spring of 2013.

Then, a decision still has to be made about how to move forward, and light rail is only one option.

"Right now, the city is looking at three different things: do nothing, bus-rapid transit, or build light rail," said City Councilman Jim Wood.

It's a decision that would be made by not only the city council, but the board of Hampton Roads Transit and the Transportation Planning Organization as well.

If they decide to proceed with light rail, the preliminary engineering and final design stages are next.

Wood says that it's somewhere during those stages that they would find out if the city will receive federal funding.

It's a long process, but Wood says the city has already secured $30 M in federal funds to pay for the preliminary engineering and final design stages.

If everything moves forward, Wood says it would be at least 7 or 8 years before light rail would be rolling in Virginia Beach.