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The Newtown Road Station is where the Tide light rail begins and ends for Virginia Beach passengers. It’s the last stop traveling eastbound and the start of its westbound trek.
That could change after Tuesday, Nov. 8, when Virginia Beach residents will vote in a non-binding referendum on whether the city should extend the light rail by roughly three miles, from Newtown Road to Town Center. If the Virginia Beach City Council were to green light the project, it is estimated to take 15 months to complete, according to an Oct. 3 update from Hampton Road Transit.
The extension would connect Norfolk to the Town Center area and is projected to cost $243 million, according to HRT’s most recent estimate. Of that amount, the state would cover $155 million, according to the city’s website. That means the city would fund about $88 million, or roughly 36 percent. The project has stirred up controversy, with anti-light rail advocates taking most recently to social media, pointing to flooding from Hurricane Matthew earlier this month and saying the city should fund storm-water infrastructure, or, in their parlance, “Drains Not Trains.”
But what do Tide passengers — the people who actually ride the rails — think about expanding service to Virginia Beach?
For Shalini Sing, a Norfolk State University material science research assistant and computer science student, it’s all about time. Her husband drops her off at the Newtown Road Station around 8 a.m., so she can travel to work and school, she said.
“It would really solve my time issues,” said Sing. “I have to arrive early because I have no other way to get to NSU. If it’s at the Town Center, my sister-in-law can just drop me off later on. It would be very convenient.”
Others at the Newtown Road stop agree with Sing’s sentiment about convenience and efficiency.
Darrell Butler, a Virginia Beach resident, said he takes the light rail to the Military Highway Station just about every day to get to work.
“I think it’s worth it,” said Butler. “It’s going to get you where you need to go quick … what would take the bus an hour, takes [the Light Rail] 15 minutes.”
Butler wasn’t the only one who complained about bus service. New York City native Troy Cassell also supports the light rail extension. He said he takes it from Newtown Road to downtown Norfolk for work.
“Sometimes the buses aren’t on time, sometimes they leave you and when you ask how you’re gonna get somewhere, they say ‘I don’t know,’” said Cassell. “They should extend it to Williamsburg… they got to start somewhere, so why not start here?”