Signs posted in Virginia Beach promote light rail extension

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Light rail is rolling onto the ballots in Virginia Beach. Voters will have to decide if they want to the Tide extended.

“It’s really about the future,” said Martha McClees with VB Connex. “Transportation systems don’t happen quickly.”

McClees believes the time is now and hopes that voters agree. She thinks extending the tracks to Town Center is the first step in extending throughout Hampton Roads.

“Without this next segment, it’s like missing a piece of the interstate. It won’t function,” McClees said.

McClees says the Tide will relieve traffic for the same drivers who pass by light rail support signs everyday. Those who are against light rail say the signs are fooling the voters.

“I think the signs are misleading, because they are not dealing with the facts and the referendum itself,” said Virginia Beach City Treasurer John Atkinson.

Light rail fight heats up ahead of November vote

The signs — paid for by Light Rail Now — say a ‘yes’ vote is for bringing the Tide to Oceanfront, ODU, Airport and Naval Base. Opponents say the problem is the referendum isn’t for any of those things, only to extend the Tide 3.2 miles from Newtown to Town Center.

“Three of those locations: Old Dominion, Naval Station Norfolk and the airport are Norfolk issues,” Atkinson said. “They aren’t Virginia Beach issues. If you go to the Oceanfront, the people down there don’t want light rail, so they should say what they are trying to. This has to do with the 3.2 extension.”

McClees says those locations are part of the future plans for the Tide.

“Our campaign is about the next piece of that system, which has to be the connection to Town Center.”

The project will cost $243 million, but the federal government is picking up $155 million. The rest will be up to taxpayers.

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

“Transportation is infrastructure, just like water and utilities,” McClees said. “It is infrastructure that nobody is going to provide if government doesn’t.”

“There is no telling what people will do if the signs are not dealing with the facts and those signs do not cover the facts,” Atkinson added.