Proposal offers faster, cheaper method to bring light rail to Virginia Beach

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by Brian Farrell

WVEC.com

Posted on April 17, 2013 at 9:52 AM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 17 at 10:01 AM

VIRGINIA BEACH -- City Council members got more details about a private proposal to bring light rail into Virginia Beach, extending the system from Newtown Road in Norfolk to Rosemont Road. The proposal comes from a group of 3 developers who believe they can have things online by the end of 2016, at least 4 years ahead of initial time projections.

"Anytime that there's interest from the private sector, that's a very good thing," said Councilman James Wood following a briefing Tuesday afternoon. "The means that we're gonna have more than one look at the costs."

Philip Shucet, President of The Philip A. Shucet Company, is one of the developers who brought the proposal to the City.  He also is the former head of Hampton Roads Transit.

Shucet joined HRT, largely, to tackle huge budget overruns and construction delays involving The Tide in Norfolk. He was with the agency when the light rails system launched successfully.

Shucet explained there are several advantages if the Beach goes the private route to extend light rail to Rosemont Road.

"100 percent of the risk of cost and schedule would be on the private side. In other words, There would be no risk to the City of Virginia Beach or the Virginia Beach taxpayers for cost overruns. We would take all of that," Shucet told 13News. "We would get paid back once we met all the terms and conditions of our contract to deliver the project up and running."

Shucet added when Norfolk built it's light rail system, all overrun risks were on the public side or taxpayers' side of the deal. He said a private entity also has more flexibility in assembling its workforce.

"As you see, frequently, low bid doesn't mean it's the lowest cost at the end of the day," noted Shucet.

Dwight Farmer, Executive Director of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, said a private entity brings significant value to a project in terms of financing and money, discipline, and delivering it on time. He added the developers' proposal would get light rail to 3 of Virginia Beach's designated strategic growth areas more quickly  than initially thought possible.

"What we've put on the table is pretty simple," Shucet said. "If you want to get it now, and you want to jump start everything that comes along with light rail, then our proposal is something the City should consider."

Virginia Beach will hold a public hearing about the light rail proposal on April 23, with Council expected to vote May 14 on whether to accept the proposal for consideration. If it does, the City would open things up for other developers to offer proposals.

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