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As Planning Staff Punts on Post-Rail Referendum, Abbott Indicates Council to Consider Villanueva Bill
Could we fix the drains and clear out West Neck creek instead?”
Councilwoman Jessica Abbott indicates that Virginia Beach may take up Delegate Ron Villanueva’s bill to allow the city to keep the $20 million in state funding for a light rail line that was rejected by voters 57-43 last November. The wording of the bill allows for no immediate implementation of a rail extension and simply refers to multimodal transportation. The Council could pick up the bill, which requires their approval, as early as next week.
This comes on the heels of a Virginia Beach Comprehensive Planning staff meeting yesterday in which, according to sources, planners were told it was ‘business as usual’ and designs for Town Center and Witchduck Road would not yet be modified to reflect the November referendum. It was the first department-wide meeting concerning light rail since the November 8 elections.
Abbott indicated the right-of-way would be paved regardless of whether light rail, bus mass transit or bicycle becomes the preferred method. “We agree (government) is going to build roads, and paving for bus transit would fall under the guidelines of the bill,” said Abbott.
Construction on the 3-mile section of former freight rail corridor would not need to commence until July 1, 2027. According to a Virginian-Pilot article published yesterday Council is mulling a $67 million option for paving, bike path and infrastructure improvements along the corridor. City Manager Dave Hanson had already floated a $7 million bike trail option along the property last month.
Both of these options may conflict with current budget expenses and needs. Taxpayers are still weary of budgeting for basic services in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. Local resident Mary Meachem explains “I lost my car in Carriage Hill because of flooding during Hurricane Matthew. Could we fix the drains and clear out West Neck creek instead?”