Would you vote for this light rail solution for Virginia Beach?
Extending The Tide from Newtown Road to Town Center would cost $327 million, officials from Hampton Roads Transit told the City Council on Tuesday.
That estimate would cover construction of the 3-mile route and its end station; the purchase of four light-rail vehicles; the acquisition of real estate; and improvements to The Tide’s control center in Norfolk. It also includes $7 million in contingencies, and council members said that makes it difficult to grasp the actual price.
“There’s still a lot of questions to be answered: location of the station, what the real cost is going to be,” said Vice Mayor Louis Jones, whose Bayside district includes part of Town Center. “And, more importantly, how we’re going to pay for it.”
Despite those questions, Jones, Mayor Will Sessoms and several others said they favor Town Center as a starting point for bringing light rail into the city. It would be less expensive than longer extensions HRT has explored: to Rosemont Road and the Oceanfront, which would include Town Center stops.
The bottom line would be $279 million in today’s dollars and balloon to about $327 million in 2018, according to HRT. That’s when city officials have said they want the line up and running.
The state has offered to pay 50 percent, up to $155 million.
The city’s annual public transportation costs would double, to about $11 million, to pay for its share of operating the line and expanding bus service to connect with it. That’s in 2012 dollars, used for comparison with Norfolk, HRT President and CEO William Harrell said.
Four stations, from west of Independence Boulevard to Constitution Drive, are options at Town Center, and the location and elevation would affect costs.
HRT estimates that, in the next 20 years, there would 2,250 rides on the line on an average weekday, but that special events, tourism and other factors would raise the number, said HRT Transit Development Officer Julie Timm.
The HRT study will go to the Federal Transit Administration next month, HRT officials said.
If approved, probably in early 2015, it would be made available to the public for comment.
Councilman Bobby Dyer said the city needs to weigh light rail with other project priorities, including rising stormwater and aging schools. He said a referendum may be in order.
The next step for the council is to choose which light-rail option, if any, it wants. Then further studies could better estimate costs, Sessoms said.
He said he’s hoping to make that decision as soon as Jan. 1.
“Town Center is just waiting to be connected,” he said. “I want to get on with this project.”
By Kathy Adams, 757-222-5155,firstname.lastname@example.org
© September 10, 2014
Source article: http://hamptonroads.com/2014/09/hrt-cost-bring-light-rail-town-center-327m