State stops funding for Virginia Beach light rail project

WAVY News 10
WAVY News 10

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne on Wednesday told 10 On Your Side that he has halted funding for the light rail project in Virginia Beach.

Layne says he sent Mayor Will Sessoms a letter Wednesday morning, informing him of the decision.

The halt in funding comes less than 24 hours after residents in Virginia Beach decisively voted against a referendum on extending light rail from Norfolk to Town Center.

According to Layne, the money that was going to be dedicated to light rail is now going back to Virginia’s SMART Scale Program — which is how they prioritize transportation funding projects across the state.

“Well it’s pretty clear that neither local funds, nor the political will was there to move this project forward,” Layne said. “So we’ll stop this procurement and transfer the funds elsewhere.”

City Manager Dave Hansen said in a letter to Mayor Sessoms and city council that the project will be shut down.

Virginia Beach can apply for the money again for light rail in the future. Layne said there is always a possibility that this money could come back to Hampton Roads in the form of some other transportation project — such as road improvements.

“There is a chance that other transportation projects in the Beach and Hampton Roads could be funded with the money, but it would be a competitive process,” Layne said.

HRT issued a statement in response to Layne’s cancellation of the funding, which said in part, “This action in no way lessens the urgent need for better public transportation in Hampton Roads and, more specifically, the City of Virginia Beach.”

Read HRT’s full statement here.