Confusion over light rail referendum explained

Posted at 7:57 PM, Oct 03, 2012
and last updated 2012-10-04 00:41:11-04

During the Presidential election on November 6th, Virginia Beach voters will be able to voice their opinions on bringing the Tide to town. 

On the ballot, Beach residents will see a referendum that reads, "Should the city council adopt an ordinance approving the use of reasonable efforts to support finance and development of the Tide light rail in Virginia Beach?"

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Recent radio ads by groups like Light Rail Now suggest a yes vote on the referendum simply supports studies to bring the Tide to the Beach.  However, city council members say it's more, or less, complicated than that.

"I think there's some misperceptions based on some of these ads," said Virginia Beach city councilman Glenn Davis, who told NewsChannel 3 voting yes on the referendum does not mean the Tide in Virginia Beach is a done deal.  It does, however, give the city room to explore options, and that is something that may cost taxpayer dollars.

"It allows the city of Virginia Beach, with the approval of the citizens, to move forward and undertake any of the necessary applications, and there may be some money attached to certain applications here and there, to look at acquiring funds for light rail," said Davis. "If it passes, city council will then move forward to working to complete the study, identifying any grants and funds available from state and federal areas to help continue to make light rail a reality in Virginia Beach."

"If it fails, the majority of council has said that light rail is not going to be brought to Virginia Beach," Davis continued.

Studies have shown getting the Tide to Town Center could cost more than $250 million, and getting it to the Oceanfront could cost more than $800 million.  Davis said even if the referendum passes, the city won't be getting light rail if federal and state funds don't take a big bite out of those numbers.

"The referendum is not a blank check to go bring light rail to Virginia Beach," Davis said.