VIRGINIA BEACH- Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne tells 13News Now's Philip Townsend that the city of Virginia Beach has agreed "in general terms" to an offer from the state for up to $155 million in funding towards extending "The Tide" light rail system from the Norfolk line to Town Center.
Layne tells 13News Now that the agreement is based on conversations he has had with Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms.
The offer was received by fax to the city manager's office on April 9th
In his letter to council and the mayor, city manager James Spore says "We are most appreciative of the state's potential participation in funding 50% of the light rail extension as the competition for resources is extraordinarily intense".
Some city council members have expressed reservations about the deal because it only allows for extension of "The Tide" using light-rail technology and rules out "MagLev". American Maglev has offered to build a "test track" in the city to prove the technology would work.
Layne says on Maglev "It's not something the state is interested in. There's nothing operational in the country."
Several hurdles remain before construction could move forward.
- A final deal must be drafted and approved.
- City Council must approve the grant request to the Department of Rail and Public Transportation, who issues the money.
- The Commonwealth Transportation Board then has the final say.
Here are some of the details of the offer:
- The state would be pay up to $155 million of the projected cost of about $310 million (which includes $18 million already spent on right-of-way acquisition). Costs overruns would be the city's responsibility.
- The extension must use the current light rail technology being used for "The Tide" and cannot use state money to pay for other options, like a proposed maglev train.
- The city would need to cancel plans for a public/private partnership for the line to Town Center and put a new competitive bidding process in place.