HRT discusses light rail route to Town Center

Posted at 11:43 PM, Sep 24, 2014

Virginia Beach, Va. - From Downtown Norfolk to Town Center in Virginia Beach, it's the shortest route option to get the tide to the Resort City.

And HRT officials say focusing on the shortest route, first, may be the best way to expand the Tide. That was the discussion they had with the public Wednesday night at the Westin, Town Center.

The light rail topic, as usual, brought heated arguments from both sides.

"A visionary move for the city that we absolutely need, a direction we need to go in," says Teresa Stanley, who lives in Town Center.

"We're a suburban community still,” says Tim Early, who lives in Virginia Beach. “They're trying to turn it into an urban one down this light rail system."

The extension to Town Center would be about three miles from where Norfolk's light rail ends at Newtown Road.

That route plan looks at not only a light rail system but also a slightly cheaper option -- a bus rapid system. Both would be on fixed tracks.

Planners are looking at four ends of line alternatives in Town Center. The cost is estimated is up to $327 million.

"One number that they don't give us is how much this is going to cost every man, woman, and child," Early says.

HRT officials say they are still working on the answer to that question.

The city will also have to find room in its budget along with help from state and federal money.

"I just don't believe people should spend money that they don't have, and I don't think that we have it," Early says.

HRT is studying four alternatives for extending light rail or bus rapid transit into Virginia Beach: One to Town Center, one to the Rosemont Road area, one to the Oceanfront via the former Norfolk Southern railroad right-of-way and one to the Oceanfront via Hilltop/Laskin Road. The City Council is expected to vote on its preferred option in early 2015.

"I know many of us have been seeing it as a piece of the vision that we've needed for well over ten, twenty years," Stanley says.

Council is expected to vote on the preferred route, if any, by early next year.

To read HRT’s Sept. 9 presentation to City Council on Town Center options, click here.