Friday, March 12, 2010

Price to buy old rail corridor could change

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Price to buy old rail corridor could change | Railway Track & Structures

The city of Virginia Beach, Va., proposed $40-million deal to buy an old rail corridor for a possible light rail project could cost more because a federal agency is asking questions about the land's value, The Virginian-Pilot
 reports.

Federal Transit Administration officials say past appraisals of the 10.6-mile long strip are too old and that a new one is needed. The concern is important because FTA approval is needed before Hampton Roads Transit can use $5 million in federal funds toward the land purchase, a key part of the multi-agency deal crafted to buy the corridor last year.

Beach Mayor Will Sessoms said he hopes the FTA will allow the old appraisals - one from 2006, one from 2008 - to stand, but acknowledged a new one might be needed.

"If we have to spend money on an appraisal to get $5 million, then we'll have to do it," he said. "That's bureaucracy. I'm sorry that's the case. I would argue we don't need one, but they have the final say."

The city's appraisal from 2006 cost $60,000.

The land, which stretches from Newton Road to Birdneck Road, is owned by Norfolk Southern Corp. The city is exploring using it for a light rail project that would connect with the Norfolk Tide line under construction.

An FTA spokesman declined to comment other than to say the agency is in discussions with HRT.

HRT officials said they are hoping to convince the FTA that a scaled down "review appraisal" is all that is needed.

FTA outlined its concerns to HRT in a letter last month obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request.

In addition to the $5 million in federal money, the state has committed $20 million and the city has put up $10 million to buy the land. The remaining $5 million comes from a utility easement Norfolk Southern would retain on the land.

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