New light rail estimate comes in $80 million less than projected

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A new estimate from Hampton Roads Transit says extending the Tide light rail from Newtown Road in Norfolk to Virginia Beach Town Center would cost almost $80 million less than earlier projected.  

All told, the project, which includes the design-builder light rail estimate, utility relocation, right-of-way, rail and support vehicles and professional services would cost $243.1 million, Hampton Roads Transit announced Monday morning. To date, engineers have completed 30 percent of the plans for the project and HRT based its presentation on those completed plans. The cost estimate comes from a 15-month evaluation and collaboration among the cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach, HRT and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, among others.

The state has said it will commit $155 million to the project, and Virginia Beach would be responsible for the remaining $88 million. Deputy City Manager Thomas Leahy will brief Virginia Beach City Council on the 30-percent design-cost estimate Tuesday.

Hampton Roads Transit President and CEO William Harrell speaks at a press conference Monday, Oct. 3. (Kate Mishkin/Southside Daily)

Hampton Roads Transit president and CEO William Harrell speaks at a press conference Monday, Oct. 3. (Kate Mishkin/Southside Daily)

“We focused on three things: having the right people doing the right things, having the right processes in place and thirdly, focusing on those major projects of significance,” said William Harrell, president and CEO of Hampton Roads Transit.

Harrell said the estimation is the product of 52,000 consultant hours, 275 consultant staff, 730 drawings on the table and 675 pages of technical requirements and specifications.

He said he wanted to convey the “magnitude” of efforts and that everything was done on time and on budget.

The extension would add 3.5 miles of track to the system, which currently ends at Newtown Road, and add three new stations in Virginia Beach. The Virginia Beach stations would be at Witchduck Road, Vellum Road and Constitution Drive. The $243 million cost estimate also includes three light rail vehicles, a new park-and-ride lot at Constitution Drive, three aerial crossings and six signalized intersections.

Virginia Beach may also see bridges over Witchduck Road, Independence Boulevard and Market Street with an elevated rail track.

VB Connex, which is connected with Light Rail Now, was in Town Center Monday afternoon to discuss the presentation.

“We think that if cost had been an issue for them, this cost estimate and contribution from the state eliminates that concern about this being a viable option for the City of Virginia Beach,” said Cathy Callahan, president of Light Rail Now. She noted that taxes will not increase to pay for the project, and that the cost of the project may end up even lower. 

“This is a very positive picture to paint,” she said in an interview on Monday.

City Treasurer John Atkinson, who’s spearheaded No Light Rail in Virginia Beach, a political action committee, said he expects the cost of the project to be much more.

“All the taxpayers are going to get is a bill,” he said. “They’re not going to get something they could use or need.” 

Virginia Beach residents will vote in a nonbinding referendum about the proposed light-rail extension Nov. 8.

Council members John Moss, Robert Dyer, Rosemary Wilson, Shannon Kane and Vice Mayor Louis Jones did not respond to a request for comment.

City Manager Dave Hansen also did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.

This story has been updated to reflect a comment from No Light Rail in Virginia Beach.

HRT-Extension-Update-10-03-16

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