VA: Fourth Option for Town Center Light-Rail Station

Aug. 29--Transit officials on Thursday unveiled a fourth possible site for a light-rail station at Virginia Beach's Town Center and said they will soon announce cost and ridership estimates for the proposed Tide extension to the commercial district.

A station just west of Independence Boulevard is now under consideration, in addition to an elevated platform over Independence, an elevated platform over Market Street and a street-level platform by Constitution Drive.

Ridership estimates for a Town Center extension and the projected costs of building and operating the 3-mile addition to Norfolk's 7.4-mile line will be released Sept. 9 in a presentation to the Virginia Beach City Council, said Julie Timm, HRT's transit development officer.

Council members directed HRT earlier this year to add the Town Center option to its study of possible routes for bringing light rail to the city, potentially as far as the Oceanfront. Public informational meetings are planned for the week of Sept. 22.

The results of the study will be submitted to the Federal Transit Administration in the fall, Timm said. Early next year, the Virginia Beach City Council is expected to formally endorse a preferred route.

Brian Solis, transportation and transit manager for the city, said council members could choose to pursue two stations for the Town Center area -- one on either side of Independence Boulevard. Part of the reasoning for such a plan would be to improve connectivity within the district itself by bridging the high-traffic road.

Regardless of what is chosen, city officials will need to begin arranging for the purchase of light-rail trains soon if, as they have stated, they want service on their new Tide line to begin in 2018, said Ray Amoruso, HRT's chief planning and development officer.

Purchase orders of the $5 million vehicles would need to be made in 2015 for them to be delivered, tested and ready for paying customers in 2018, he said.

Dave Forster, 757-222-5005, dave.forster@pilotonline.com

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