On Thursday morning the Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads (TDCHR), the governing body of Hampton Roads Transit (HRT), met.
The unusual starting time (10 A.M.) was at the request of the City of Norfolk due to light rail eminent domain public hearings. The funny part: no one showed up to speak. Even after the special accommodations.
The annual Audit Report was distributed to Commissioners and explained. They will now read it over, and formally receive it at their next (January 22) meeting.
President-elect Obama's economic stimulus package is slated to have a transit component. Transit agencies across the country have been asked to identify projects to get into the queue. HRT has four:
1. new Southside facility - to replace the aging administrative offices and garage in Norfolk.
2. Cedar Grove replacement - a permanent downtown Norfolk transfer center with light rail access.
3. Norfolk light rail - more Federal funds to help cover the increased cost.
4. Virginia Beach light rail - towards extension of Norfolk's Starter Line to Virginia Beach's Oceanfront.
The Commission unanimously passed a Resolution calling for mass transit to be considered in all major new transportation projects in Hampton Roads.
The revised budget for Norfolk's light rail Starter Line was distributed to Commissioners. A few facts to cut through the doom-and-gloom. First, Charlotte, Phoenix, and Portland have all had similar problems recently due to Federal Transit Administration (FTA) regulations. Second, while The Virginian-Pravda has reported a 24% cost overrun, the actual overrun is under 10%. Over three-fifths of the increased cost are from add-ons, requested by either the City of Norfolk, Norfolk State University, or the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT). Third, speaking of DRPT, they requested $7 million in safety enhancements. Those would be unnecessary for a 7.4 mile line, but DRPT sees a need for the Virginia Beach extension and doesn't want to have them retrofitted later. Yes, the $7 million is all about light rail for Virginia Beach.
Finally, the TDCHR approved the Strategic Plan and Business Plan, which were both originally unveiled at the TDCHR's November Retreat.