NORFOLK, Va. - Norfolk city councilmembers will meet Tuesday afternoon todiscuss light rail project setbacks.
Last week, a Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) spokesperson toldWAVY.com the light rail project was halfway finished and remainedon budget at $288 million.
Less than a week later, WAVY.com learned the price tag soared tosomewhere between $326 and $328 million and the ride won't be readyuntil 2011. The exact cost is unclear and it seems Norfolk CityCouncil and HRT's own board members have no idea.
"We don't know what these costs are and as the board, as acommission, we should be able to point and be able to say ok, thisis what our cost of completion is as of this date," says HRT Chairand Virginia Beach City Councilman James Woods.
WAVY.com learned the warning signs started in early fall.Complications grew involving electrical work through Norfolk'scentury old streets. Changes were made to spruce up the facade ofthe light rail's vehicle maintenance building adjacent to NorfolkState's campus. WAVY.com also learned HRT reviewed the increase incosts immediately, but no one knew how to mention it.
"The discussion on how the price of the project would change hasbeen of some concern to the senior management at HRT. The projectmanagers are trying to find that right number and that has taken upa good bit of time," said HRT spokesperson Tom Holden.
Norfolk city councilman Randy Wright just found out recently."We rely on staff to give us information and either they didn'thave accurate information or they didn't share it with us. I don'tthink they did it maliciously, but none of us were aware of thisuntil a few weeks ago."
The state already approved $20 million dollars to help coverthe increase. HRT plans to seek other funding sources to cover therest. It's not certain if the city will have to pick up more of thetab.
Woods said it is unclear how these recent developments willaffect the city's attempt to extend light rail to theOceanfront.
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