Virginia Beach Transit Extension
Decision to Advance Studies of LRT to Town Center
During the summer and fall of 2015 the Virginia Beach Transit Extension Study (VBTES) reached important milestones.
In May 2015, Virginia Beach City Council and Hampton Roads Transit selected a preferred route to extend light rail from Newtown Road to Town Center in Virginia Beach. The selection was made based on the results of a multi-year study that compared a range of alternatives. The study took into consideration extensive public input and conceptual comparisons of each alternative.
The City also based its decision on an independent economic study outlining the likely indirect economic impacts of a light rail extension to the Town Center area. The City made its decision to continue studying the proposed light rail extension after considering public and agency comments received during the formal 45-day public comment period held in March and April 2015.
The proposed extension will connect the downtown areas of two of Hampton Roads’ largest cities with a reliable mode of travel. It will increase connectivity and mobility options while also supporting Virginia Beach’s plan to focus new growth in a dense, mixed-use corridor. Extending light rail to Town Center will also keep the door open for consideration of future transit expansion toward the Oceanfront, north to the Little Creek area, and south to the Princess Anne Commons area.
Advancing the Project Engineering, but not the FEIS
In September 2015, the project construction partners – the Commonwealth of Virginia and the City of Virginia Beach – made the decision not to seek federal funding for an extension of The Tide. Construction of the light rail project is proposed to be funded entirely with money from the Commonwealth and the city.
Up until that point, it was assumed that federal funding would be part of the construction financing for the project. Without any proposed federal funding in the plan, the Federal Transit Administration is rescinding the DEIS and no Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) will be produced. The completion of the FEIS for the construction of a project only happens when there is federal participation in that part of the project.
Why do this?
In short, it may save money and time. Federally financed projects require that wages and salaries be paid at a higher rate than if the project were built without federal dollars. Also, federal underwriting requires the use of certain materials that can be found a cheaper prices if obtained from non American markets.
What’s happening now?
HRT, the City, and DRPT are working cooperatively to advance the engineering of the proposed extension to provide more detailed information to the City and State for the final decision making process anticipated to occur in 2016.