HRT recommends extending light rail to Military Circle, starting with a rapid bus route between Greenbrier and Naval Station Norfolk
NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – After several years of study, Hampton Roads Transit believes the best way to connect Norfolk’s largest employer and its existing light rail system is through a slight expansion and a new regional concept called Bus Rapid Transit .
The recommendation on the two-phase plan, which would ultimately connect Naval Base Norfolk to Miltary Circle and eventually the Greenbrier area of Chesapeake via a rapid transit system, was presented to Norfolk City Council on Friday during their retreat .
HRT planners said not only would it reconnect communities, but it could likely reduce road traffic in some of the region’s busiest places.
The existing 7.3-mile-long light rail system currently connects the Eastern Virginia Medical Center complex to Newtown Road on the Norfolk-Virginia Beach border.
Long derided as ‘the light rail to nowhere’, Phase 1 of the recommended plan calls for the expansion of The Tide – Norfolk’s light rail system – two miles from Sentara Leigh Hospital and the Military Circle.
Ray Amoruso, director of planning and development for HRT, told city council that this would give light rail a stronger footing.
“Those who live east of [Interstate] 64. The military road redevelopment area is not accessible on foot. Light rail provides that correction,” Amoruso said.
However, trying to extend the line to Naval Base Norfolk, where around 60,000 to 70,000 people travel each day, a multi-year study finding race tracks there wouldn’t be worth the billion dollar price tag.
So, Amoruso said that they are considering establishing bus rapid transit, much like Richmond’s Pulse system.
Passengers would still board a bus, but they would board at station platforms similar to light rail and travel in their own dedicated lanes.
Phase II of HRT’s recommendation is to establish bus rapid transit from Naval Station Norfolk to Summit Pointe, the new mixed-use development where Dollar Tree is headquartered in Chesapeake.
“We will be soliciting requests for proposals this spring to conduct a study to look at what makes the most sense from Summit Point to Greenbrier,” Amoruso said. “Are we getting him on Greenbrier Parkway?” Do we get him back up Battlefield Boulevard? How to get to the military road? »
He said the meeting point of light rail and bus rapid transit – at Military Circle – is essential.
In the spring Norfolk City Council could choose their favorite developer to transform the area from a decaying regional mall into a planned community with a 15,000-seat arena.
“What a great thing it would be to connect all of this with modern public transit,” Amoruso said.
However, construction would take at least eight years. Amoruso said very preliminary estimates for the project total $300 million. But he said the federal government could probably pick up 51% of the cost.
What he said should happen this year is a city council support vote to seek state funding for Smart Scale.
The whole system could be operational by 2033.