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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Norfolk light-rail official: Water may not be culprit

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Water may not be to blame for the settling of light-rail tracks at the intersection of Brambleton Avenue and Second Street, The Virginian-Pilot reports. Don Lint, Hampton Roads Transit light-rail construction manager, said that once the tracks and the panels they are bolted to are removed next week, the agency will have a better idea of what went wrong.

On May 25, HRT officials said they thought flooding was the culprit. The area across from The Hague floods in unusually high tides.

Water "can play a role, but we're not sure it played a role in this," Lint said May 26.

He added that settling at the crossing has caused some movement of the tracks, which can be a cause of derailments.

Meanwhile, HRT President and CEO Philip Shucet said 10 other light- rail crossings built in the same way would be inspected for similar settling problems. He said the project's $338-million budget includes ample contingency money to pay for the repairs. The track crossing, now on a ballasted base, will be replaced with tracks that are embedded, providing a more solid foundation at the intersection. It will cost $80,000 to $120,000.

Shucet also said the problem will not cause HRT to miss its July 17 deadline for finishing track construction downtown. In fact, he said, the work is still ahead of schedule.

The repair is expected to take two weeks. Brambleton traffic will not be affected, but Second Street will be closed.

"We're doing what we're supposed to do," Shucet said.

He said high water could be a problem for light- rail operations at times because the system was built at grade level, which is less expensive than an elevated system.

"There might be times in some areas trains cannot pass," he said. "A decision was made to build it at grade.... There will be certain things we'll have to deal with."

The light-rail trains are expected to start running in May 2011.