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Price to buy old rail corridor could change

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February 14, 2001 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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