Light rail extension projected to cost $243M, according to HRT estimates

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A project to expand light rail from Norfolk to Virginia Beach would cost a total of $243.1 million, according to estimates officials released Monday.

Hampton Roads Transit officials are presenting 30 percent of the plans engineers have completed up to this point, which includes projected costs.

The estimated figure released Monday is around $84 million less than previous estimates.

“The earlier estimates were based on five percent engineering. We know a whole lot more at 30 percent,” said HRT President and CEO, William Harrell.

The 3.5 mile extension would include three stops: one at Witchduck Road and another at Kellam Road, ending at Constitution Drive near Town Center. HRT says the city has $155 million in state money set aside for the project and would be responsible for the remaining $88 million and any other enhancements.

Joash Schulman with Virginia Beach Connex said he hopes voters approve of the city spending money on the extension.

“The estimate today gets us closer to a number that I think we can feel more comfortable, and it’s certainly a lot less than the original cost estimate,” he said.

Virginia Beach City Treasurer John Atkinson with No Light Rail Virginia Beach opposes the project.

“We’re going to have a referendum on November 8th and I think the citizens of Virginia Beach are going to say, ‘No,'” he said.

The proposal is too expensive and residents won’t use the light rail system, Atkinson said.

“It won’t move people and it won’t eliminate congestion,” he said.

Virginia Beach city council in April voted on a measure to secure $155 million in funding for the project. This vote also meant that HRT was going to move forward in purchasing light rail cars.

Virginia Beach residents will vote Nov. 8 on a light rail referendum, which would ask them: “Should City Council of Virginia Beach spend local funds to extend light rail from Norfolk to Town Center in Virginia Beach?”

Virginia Beach City Manager Dave Hansen is expected to present the latest figures to city leaders on Tuesday.