Where Are We Now?

Current status of the light rail project


November 8, 2016

On November 8, Virginia Beach residents voted against spending local money to extend light rail into Virginia Beach by a 57-43 margin. The state sent notice that it has withdrawn the $155 million it had dedicated to the project. The City Council will discuss next steps at its Nov. 15 meeting.

November 1, 2016​​

​Transportation & Transit Planning Manager Brian Solis provided an update to City Council on the light rail extension project covering the following topics:

  • Increasing mobility options & advancing strategic growth
  • Project update: cost control & content
  • Connectivity

October 4, 2016​​

​Deputy City Manager Tom Leahy and City Manager Dave Hansen provided a briefing on the status of the light rail project now that the 30% design and updated cost information has been completed​.  ​


April 5, 2016 ​— City Council Members Approve Memorandum of Understanding for Light Rail

  • City Council voted 9-2 to authorize the city manager to execute a nonbinding agreement between the City of Virginia Beach, the state’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation and the Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads (HRT). The agreement outlines roles and responsibilities in the construction of the light rail extension from Newtown Road to Town Center. 
  • This vote preserved the state’s $155 million investment in the project. It also gave the go ahead to HRT to submit a funding application for light rail vehicles even though the final decision on whether to purchase the cars will come after the possible fall referendum on light rail. ​​

​​Feb. 2, 2016 - Staff Provides a Briefing on Transit-Oriented Development (minute 44:25)​


​​Sept. 1, 2015 — Saving $20.5 million on construction:

  • On Sept. 1, 2015, staff briefed the City Council on a proposal to save approximately $20.5 on light rail construction. Federal money will not be used to build the proposed Virginia Beach extension, so certain federal requirements will not apply. The project can save $6.4 million by buying steel outside the United States and save $14.1 million in labor costs.
  • The full presentation is available here​.

May 12, 2015 — City Council took two actions in support of light rail:​

  1. ​Adopted a resolution​ favoring extending light rail 3.2 miles from the Newtown Road station in Norfolk to Virginia Beach Town Center with new stations at Witchduck Road, Town Center area — one near Kellam Road and one (the end of the line) at Constitution Drive. This is called the Locally Preferred Alternative. 
  2. Adopted a budget​​ that includes plans to extend light rail to Town Center, with $20 million to proceed in the 2015-16 fiscal year. This also includes plans to double the city’s bus service, build a walking-biking trail alongside the light rail line and build 24 new bus shelters. 

Nov. 6, 2012 — 62.7 % of Virginia Beach voters voted yes in support of a referendum to move forward with studying light rail development. ​​​​​​​

 Existing Route

HRT MAP.JPGNorfolk’s first leg of the line runs 7.4 miles from the Norfolk medical complex (Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters and Eastern Virginia Medical School) through downtown Norfolk, past Norfolk State University to Newtown Road at the Virginia Beach border. 

Virginia Beach Routes Considered

The City Council weighed four possible light rail routes — extensions to Town Center, Rosemont Road and two routes to the Oceanfront — one via Laskin Road/Hilltop, the other, a straight shot along the abandoned Norfolk-Southern right-of-way. The city Council chose the Town Center option (Alternative 1A) primarily because of the lower cost.

Proposed New Stations

LRT Map INCLUDES TOWN CENTER.jpgThe current line includes 11 stations and four park-and-ride lots. The new extension would include three new stations with the end of the line being in Town Center:

  • Constitution Drive: east of Constitution, adjacent to the current movie theater
  • Kellam Road: a walk-on station (no park-and-ride)
  • Witchduck Road: the station will be on the south side of Southern Boulevard, between Jersey Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue.  The park-and-ride will be located on city-owned property across Southern Boulevard. ​

Pedestrian Walking/Biking Path Along Extension​

The city would also build a walking and biking path alongside the light rail line to connect neighborhoods along the route. This is another way that the total transportation network — not just light rail — serves Virginia Beach residents and visitors. It would cost 

about $17.7 million, part of which is forecasted to come from the state and federal government. 

Charlotte has a very successful walking and biking path next to three miles of its light rail line (pictured). It supports apartments, condos, shops, restaurants and offices. Here’s what it looks like: ​

Changes to Bus Service to Support Light Rail

Expanding light rail to Town Center also forces a rexamination of our bus service. Light rail and buses are necessary because they serve different purposes in different locations. These two transit modes work together, with light rail providing a faster, more efficient east/west urban transit backbone that is fed by buses delivering passengers throughout less dense suburban areas. 

Accordingly, the city is planning to double bus service — from 110,000 hours a year to 229,000 hours a year. That includes adding two new bus lines, running buses more often during the day and expanding service on nights and weekends. 

The new routes will start in 2019, in coordination with light rail service to Virginia Beach. 

This will also require more bus shelters. Currently, only 5 percent of the more than 500 bus stops in Virginia Beach are sheltered. But, that’s about to change. The City Council has approved $668,000 to build 24 new bus shelters in 2016 and 2017, doubling the number of shelters in Virginia Beach.​


​The Tide began operating in August 2011. Through May 2015, it has attracted 6.1 million riders. On a typical weekday, The Tide carries 5,300 passengers. An additional 4,500 typically ride on Saturdays and 1,800 on Sundays. This is significantly higher than original ridership projects of just 2,900 per weekday for the first segment of the line. Once light rail is extended to Town Center, the total system will be 10.5 miles and have 14 stations. Very conservative estimates suggest ridership would increase by about 2,250 passengers once the new extension is operational. 


Early cost estimates for extending light rail to Town Center indicated it could cost as much as $310 million, although refining project designs and ultimately receiving bids will deliver final cost information. The state will pay up to $155 million toward the project. 

There are two​ other important components to the project:

  1. Doubling bus service in Virginia Beach — This includes three new routes, longer hours and more freque​nt bus service citywide. The cost, mainly for buying 12 new buses, is $3.6 million
  2. ​A walking/biking path alongside the light rail line — $17.6 million. We do not yet know how this will be split between the city and state.