Thousands a month spent on security for light rail cars

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by David Alan, 13News

WVEC.com

Posted on March 1, 2010 at 7:00 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 17 at 2:11 PM

NORFOLK -- When a handful of light rail cars rolled into Norfolk last fall, those closest to the light rail project could hardly contain themselves.

"The thrill of the ride is gonna be better than a bus. It's going to be more fun to ride the train than the bus," said Norfolk City Council member Don Williams.

Even then, Hampton Roads Transit CEO Michael Townes was selling the excitement.

"The day your rail car arrives makes it seem all the more real," he said.

In reality, the rail cars arrived before HRT was ready to take delivery of them.  Construction on a garage to house the cars near Norfolk State University was well behind schedule. The delay blamed, in part, on a debate over what the garage should look like -- something very basic or something more fancy with brick.

James Toscano of Hampton Roads Transit stated, "The errors and challenges on this project, you know, are well known." 

Toscano said last fall HRT had two choices  -- pay the manufacturer $1 million to delay the delivery of the cars or bring them in and hire get round-the-clock security.

"These are the citizens' vehicles. They will ride in them and we want to keep them safe," Toscano said.

Portable lights were brought in and guards were hired to watch the cars 24-7, largely to keep taggers away.  The cost of security is $258,000 and that's money taxpayers would not have had to shell out had the garage been finished on time.

"It is the right amount of money to secure them properly. I don't think there is many out there who, given the situation, think we shouldn't provide top security for assets that are really the communities," said Toscano, defending the decision.

Today, five months after the cars arrived, piles of dirt stand on the garage site.  HRT doesn’t expect the structure to be finished until December.  Meantime, the cost for security is running at more than $18,000 a month and you paid for it!

In digging through a recent consultant's report on light rail cost overruns, 13News found HRT also had to purchase extended warranties on the delivered light rail cars. Had the garage been ready, those warranties, totaling $138,000, would not have been needed.

All of the costs for securing the cars and the extended warranties are part of the current new price for The Tide -- $335-million.   

   











 

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