In it's early February statement on light rail, the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) left open the door that it might be willing to support light rail if certain conditions were met. On a slow day at work today, I was hit with this brainstorm: why not have the community set out parameters? If we can agree to caps on light rail, the consultants doing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) would virtually have to abide by them, or the project would be dead on the release of the DEIS.
So I started drafting some caps for a Newtown Road - convention center extension. I came up with 7 for starters; add any suggestions under comments:
1. Maximum $500 million project cost.
That would include rail construction, bridge replacement, feeder bus purchases, and a bus maintenance facility.
2. Maximum $75 million local share.
Based on Norfolk's 15% local share.
3. Major roadways would be bridged.
Not to snarl vehicle traffic.
4. Hybrid buses would be used for the feeder service.
Cutting operating costs 25%.
5. A special tax district along the rail corridor to cover the construction debt. It would be a quarter mile each way, the TOD line.
Not only does Reid support TIFs for Transportation, but a former CCO President asked me about such for light rail last week.
6. Virginia Beach would only construct if Norfolk built EVMS to Navy base via ODU.
During the BRT debate, Reid said the military bases should be first. Vice Mayor Louis Jones has said Virginia Beach needs such, so we ask it from Norfolk.
7. Any Change Orders on construction would require a two week process: public comment the first week, followed by more public comment before City Council votes the following week.
Any "bait and switch" would be out in the open.
Reid, feel free to suggest any objective caps you wish. Hopefully we can agree on a package.
The VBTA is scheduled to meet this (last) Saturday. If we can agree on a package and the VBTA votes it out, the CCO newsletter will be finalized the following week. I can get it in so the CCO can vote on a Resolution on May 14. If both the VBTA and CCO agree, we should be able to get the Virginia Beach City Council to commission a DEIS on those terms.
Okay, many will tell me that trying to bargain with the VBTA on light rail is futile. However, if we can condition it enough that it deals with their biggest fears, maybe we can get them to agree to a DEIS. All I can do is try.