After study, HRT to explore new options for light rail to Naval Station Norfolk

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Back to the drawing board: light rail l is not heading to Naval Station Norfolk, at least for now.

Hampton Roads Transit spent the last few years developing routes to the Navy base that they say won’t work. 

Tonight, HRT is holding its first public meeting to explain the routes and why they don’t think they’re good investments.  However, they are still optimistic for the future.

“Multi-modal options are important,” said Jamie Jackson, HRT’s director of transit development.

Jackson is spearheading the light rail expansion project. 

Over the last few years, HRT created more than a dozen potential light rail routes. They narrowed it down to two, and after a series of studies, realized neither would work.

“You really have to make sure that whatever you create or construct will compete and these two alternatives unfortunately did not,” Jackson said. 

She’s talking about competing for federal funding. 

Alternative Route 7 started at the Monticello Station and would take people to Gate 2 at Naval Station Norfolk.  It’s major fault would be HRT needing a separate bridge for the Tide to cross the Lafayette River. 

Alternative Route 12 would start at the Civic Plaza Station and take people to Gate 4.  But, that would entail building an overpass over 564 and 64 at Ward’s Corner.

Sea level rise was also a concern. 

“This asset needs to last 50 years,” said Jackson.

So, with ridership numbers that didn’t match the cost of the routes, HRT is going back to the drawing board.

ODU economics professor Robert McNab says 50 years of a light rail route can change a community.

“Light rail can help economic development,” McNab said.  “It can reduce congestion and it can move a region forward in terms of its attractiveness.”

He thinks to really be effective, it needs to keep expanding. 

“If we’re going to develop as a region, if we’re going to become more attractive to other industries, we have to think regionally with regards to our public transit solutions,” McNab said. 

As for a light rail route to Naval Station Norfolk, there is good news:

“We do see that there should be or could be a viable option on the east side,” Jackson said. 

The first public meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the Hampton Roads Transit Building at 509 E. 18th Street in Norfolk.  The next one is Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Lambert’s Point Community Center.

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