Virginia Beach continues LRT flirtation

Written by Douglas John Bowen

Fifteen years after rejecting light rail transit, Virginia Beach, Va., officials are slowly but steadily warming up to the mode, with current Mayor Will Sessoms saying he hopes to have a plan in place within a month to extend The Tide service east from its current terminus in neighboring Norfolk.

Sessoms acknowledged that funding for such an extension remains problematic, despite indications of support from Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Any extension might need to be done in stages, with the ultimate goal of reaching the city’s (Atlantic) Oceanfront neighborhood, an important city economic driver.

The most likely route for the extension would be via ex-Norfolk Southern right-of-way, which Virginia Beach moved to acquire in 2010.

“We’ve got to find a responsible way to pay for it,” Sessoms told local media Wednesday, March 19, 2014. “I imagine we will be limited to the distance and it might be just to Town Center and it will be limited because of the funding, without the federal money we will need more help from the state and from the local government as well.”

Hampton Roads Transit, operator of The Tide, is also exploring an LRT extension within Norfolk itself, designed to reach Naval Station Norfolk.

 Service on the Tide began Aug. 19, 2011.