VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A lot of people are in favor of The Tide Light Rail’s expansion, but a red flag is being raised about a figure; a number that almost doubles the original estimated cost.
“I’m not convinced that the information is there for the city of Virginia Beach to make a good decision,” Virginia’s Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne said. “Whether or not that’s a criticism of HRT, or the state, or the city it doesn’t matter.”
In September, Secretary Layne sent a letter to Hampton Roads Transit. His chief concern was why estimates for the extension range up to $105 million per mile. A figure which is more than double the actual per mile cost to build The Tide starting line which launched in 2011.
“What I asked for is a simple analysis of here’s what we spent before, engineering all that, and tell me what you are planning for the extension,” Layne said. “I haven’t been able to get that.”
In the return letter, HRT director William Harrell offered another estimate. In the letter he explains the numbers are based on future costs. But it’s a number still too high according to Layne.
The state wants an analysis alongside a read out of the costs for the initial line to be built.
“Therefore I’ve asked Department of Rail and Public Transportation to do a third-party review of the costs that are provided by HRT,” Layne explained. “I want to have independent analysis of those costs and then put them in a simple format.”
Virginia Beach city treasurer John Atkinson is a staunch opponent of the light rail expansion. He said this confusion just verifies for him what he already thinks.
“A 3.2 mile extension to Virginia Beach is horribly expensive, way beyond our needs,” he said.
But secretary Layne said he’s not quick to pull the plug on the project,
“It is the largest city in the commonwealth to not think we wouldn’t have alternative modes of transportation to that city seems a little bit as poor planning to me looking ahead to the future,” he explained.
A spokesperson for Hampton Roads Transit said they already have crews out along the route doing more research of their own. He expects HRT to have a more concrete number in future months for the project.
WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH LAYNE BELOW: