The Virginia Beach City Council has adopted a budget for the coming year that includes $20 million for a Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) light-rail extension. The total budget will increase 2.2 percent – roughly the rate of inflation.
The budget includes money to extend light rail from Newtown Road to Town Center. Building the line would cost an estimated $310 million, with half of that – $155 million – from the state. The city is also build a walking-biking path alongside light rail for an estimated $17.6 million.
The city council says it would fund its half of the light-rail line through debt. The annual debt service payment would come partly from a 1.8-cent increase in the real estate tax, partly from an additional $5 for each vehicle registration and partly by redirecting some money from programs that buy open space and development rights in farm areas.
The city council has made two changes to the original light-rail budget proposal. First, the council will vote separately, at a later date, on ordering light-rail cars. Second, the council will review each year the need for more money to preserve farmland.
HRT said the Virginia Beach Transit Extension Study (VBTES) examines the best transit options using a former freight rail right-of-way which runs from Newtown Road to Birdneck Road in Virginia Beach. The study area extends from Newtown Road to the Oceanfront area on 19th Street.
“The decision by Virginia Beach City Council to select a locally preferred alternative for an extension of The Tide light rail into Town Center marks a major milestone for the region,” said William Harrell, president and chief executive officer of Hampton Roads Transit. “By voting to support an expansion of high capacity transit into the commonwealth’s largest city, the council has recognized the critical need for cities in Hampton Roads to work cooperatively to manage regional needs. We look forward to completing the study and the next phases of this important project. We congratulate the council on this important, forward-looking decision.”