Regions Hampton Roads

City’s purchase could extend light rail

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The City of Virginia Beach has signed a deal with Norfolk Southern Corp. to buy an old railroad right-of-way that it could use to extend the light-rail system now under construction in Norfolk.

The deal is supposed to be closed by the end of June, says Mayor William D. Sessoms Jr. The exact cost to the city and what it might do with the property if the deal goes through isn’t certain, he says. “With this agreement, we have acquired a strategic opportunity — a big, exciting opportunity,” Sessoms said in a news release. “It’s an opportunity to start weaning ourselves away from the stranglehold of automobiles as our only mode of mobility.”

The property that Virginia Beach hopes to acquire is a 10.6-mile corridor that is no longer used by the railroad. It extends from the Norfolk city line through Virginia Beach parallel to Interstate 264. The city will kick in $10 million for the purchase, with the state of Virginia contributing $20 million and Hampton Roads Transit putting in $5 million.

Norfolk’s light rail line, which will extend 7.4 miles from the Eastern Virginia Medical Center through downtown Norfolk, will have 11 stations. If the system is extended to Virginia Beach, the city hopes to link several of its major development centers, including Town Center and Hilltop, both of which are along the I-264 corridor.
Sessoms calls the project “the future of light rail” in Hampton Roads. “Where we go from there is up to us. I know I will be pushing hard to make light rail a reality.”

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