Residents, city officials pack Virginia Beach light rail open house

WAVY News 10

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Hampton Roads Transit held an open house Wednesday night to discuss the Virginia Beach light rail extension project.

Coincidentally, the open house, which was planned for two months, fell on the same day the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) released a resolution related to the light rail project. The CTB discussed the project’s funding in a workshop Tuesday.

State funding for the project has recently been the subject of discussion between officials and council because a possible referendum that would be on the November ballot.

Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne told city leaders, $155 million in state funding could be put toward other state projects if council holds another referendum on the project. The first referendum was held in 2012. Layne has since agreed a light rail referendum would not affect state funding, as long as the city and state agree to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

Most residents at the open house seemed to be tracking the latest conversation between the CTB and city leaders. Residents were well aware Layne said the funding would be used elsewhere in the state if a MOU was not signed by the city by April 30.

“I think that they should use the $155 million that the government has given them,” said Jane Fowler, who said she rides the Tide regularly. “Because if they don’t, then they’re going to have to stand in line and wait their turn again.”

Other residents at the open house Wednesday night were passionately against light rail being extended to the Town Center area.

Dane Blythe called the project a “financial time bomb.”

“Personally, I’m not against public transportation,” Blythe explained. “It makes sense, especially if you visit New York or Boston, [they] absolutely need it. But, if you think about Virginia Beach, and where people live, and where the jobs are, it just doesn’t make sense financially, or really from a transportation standpoint, as well.”

City Manager Dave Hansen was also at the HRT open house. He said he does not expect there to be a light rail referendum on the November ballot.

“This is a decision that the council will take on themselves,” he said.

Hansen said he plans to have the MOU before city council within the next 30 days.

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