It’s been a while since I wrote about two ongoing studies to extend Norfolk, VA’s light rail line. Much has progressed during the past few months on both studies, but a long road still lies before Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) in terms of finalizing routes for both extensions, putting together the final costs for each project, and building and maintaining public and political support.
Let’s first begin with the light rail (LRT) extension towards Naval Station Norfolk, which was launched nearly a year ago. This extension would bring the current Tide LRT Line roughly 7.6 miles from its current western terminus at the Eastern Virginia Medical Center to the Naval base, considered to be the largest U.S. Naval base in the world. Six different alignments have proposed by HRT and a series of public hearings are scheduled this week to garner public input. Now, these routes are only preliminary and several reports suggest that major flaws such as right-of-way issues have not been screened out as of yet. HRT stressed that they hope to have a clearer picture by the summer.
The three public hearings that will be held this week are listed below, with one of them to be held this evening, Monday, February 24.
Many questions remain about the proposed LRT extension to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. In January, HRT released its projected cost for the Hilltop/Laskin Rd alignment, which came in at about $1.3 billion. Although this alignment is projected to see weekday boardings of at least 8,845 customers per day, compared to only 5,295 customers if the alignment using an abandoned Norfolk Southern freight rail corridor was used, the cost of using the Laskin Rd alignment would be much higher than NS route, which that estimate came in at just over $1 billion back in late 2013. The Laskin Rd alignment would also require that new infrastructure be built along several roadways, just like the LRT segment through Downtown Norfolk.
Regardless of which alignment is chosen (either of the two above, or a shorter option to truncate at Rosemont Rd), the Virginia Beach LRT extension faces a massive cost and significant political barriers. To make matters more complicated for HRT and the city of Virginia Beach, several private sector proposals were presented in 2013 that touted a much lower cost of construction and operation, and a sooner opening date. No one knows at this point as to which alignment will ultimately be selected, or who would be selected to build and operate the extension.
Source: Virginian Pilot.