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Norfolk, Virginia/Norfolk-Virginia Beach Corridor

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Norfolk-Virginia Beach Corridor

Norfolk, Virginia

(November 1998)


The Tidewater Transportation District Commission (TTDC) is planning an 18.3-mile double track Light Rail Transit (LRT) line from the Oceanfront area in Virginia Beach to Downtown Norfolk. The proposed LRT alignment generally follows 14 miles of existing Norfolk Southern railroad right-of-way. The project is the first phase of a 30-mile alignment that includes an extension to the Norfolk Naval Base and the cities of Chesapeake and Portsmouth. This corridor serves an area of significant growth for the region including a large number of people who commute into Norfolk and Virginia Beach from outside those communities. Virginia Beach Boulevard and Route 44/I-264 are at or over capacity at many locations. In addition to capacity concerns, there are other important issues within the corridor, such as potential economic development opportunities and increased mobility for the residents of Hampton Roads.

TTDC estimates that the LRT will cost $524.6 million (escalated dollars) to construct, and will carry 14,740 new riders in the year 2018.

Norfolk Beach Corridor Summary Description

Proposed Project Light rail line
18.3 miles, 13 stations
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $524.60 million
Section 5309 Share ($YOE) $288.60 million
Annual Operating Cost ($YOE) $51.30 million
Ridership Forecast (2018) 14,740 boardings
FY 2000 Financial Rating: Low
FY 2000 Project Justification Rating: Low-Medium
FY 2000 Overall Project Rating: Not Recommended

The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1998. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.


The TTDC completed a Major Investment Study (MIS) to evaluate transit/transportation improvements in the 30-mile corridor extending from Virginia Beach to Downtown Norfolk and the Norfolk Naval Base. TTDC selected the Light Rail Transit Alternative for the 18.3-mile segment from Virginia to Downtown Norfolk as the locally preferred alternative (LPA), which was endorsed by the Metropolitan Planning Organization on January 15, 1997. Development of the segment connecting to the Norfolk Naval Base will be considered in a later phase.

Approval from the Federal Transit Administration to enter Preliminary Engineering/ Environmental Impact Statement (PE/EIS) was granted in April 1997. TTDC anticipates that the PE/EIS will be completed in February 1999.

TEA-21 Section 3030(a)(58) authorizes the Norfolk-Virginia Beach Corridor for final design and construction. Through FY 1999, Congress has appropriated $9.93 million in Section 5309 New Start funds to this project.


The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTA’s Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. Criteria have been submitted for the 18.3-mile segment from Virginia Beach to Norfolk. N/A indicates that data are not available for this specific measure.


Mobility Improvements

Rating: Low

TTDC estimates the following annual travel time savings for the Norfolk – Virginia Beach Corridor.

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours) 0.60 million hours 0.30 million hours

Based on 1990 U.S. census data, there are an estimated 1,447 low-income households within a ½ mile radius of the proposed 13 stations, representing 12.6 percent of all households within the corridor.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: Medium

Hampton Roads is currently classified as a maintenance area for both VOC and NOx. TTDC only provided information on estimated changes in carbon dioxide emissions.

Criteria Pollutant New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Carbon Monoxide (CO) N/A N/A
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) N/A N/A
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) N/A N/A
Particulate Matter (PM10) N/A N/A
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) decrease of 5,705 annual tons decrease of 9,724 annual tons

TTDC estimates the proposed project will result in the following savings in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units – BTU).

Annual Energy Savings New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
BTU (millions) decrease of 64,639 million annual BTU decrease of 115,716 million annual BTU

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: High

TTDC estimates the following systemwide costs per passenger mile.

Operating Efficiencies No-Build TSM New Start
System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (2018) $0.68 $0.70 $0.51

Values reflect 2018 ridership forecast and 1997 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Medium

TTDC estimates the following cost effectiveness indices.

Cost Effectiveness New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger $12.03 $11.59

Values reflect 2018 ridership forecast and 1997 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Low-Medium

The Low-Medium land use rating reflects the relatively low-density development and only marginally supportive transit corridor policies and zoning regulations within the corridor. Although the proposed alignment passes through the central business districts of Norfolk and Virginia Beach, much of the existing land use consists of low-density commercial (strip mall) and residential development. Both Norfolk and Virginia Beach have implemented limited supportive zoning regulations near transit stations. Except for city-led revitalization projects in downtown Norfolk and a proposed CBD for Virginia Beach, development proposals have not yet been affected by or oriented toward transit stations. With the exception of the Oceanfront area, the jurisdictions have not identified parking policies.

The City of Virginia Beach promotes urban redevelopment while also protecting agricultural land. The city has established a "Green Line", or growth boundary, and has started a 30-year, $87 million program to purchase development rights outside the boundary. Master plans for Virginia Beach and Norfolk do not specifically emphasize concentrating growth in light rail station areas.

Other Factors

Economic Development: The MIS estimated the economic impacts (through the year 2015) of implementing the LRT alternative including: a net new employment payroll of $88.2 million (1995 dollars) from jobs in LRT development; an increase of $56.4 million in retail sales, an increase in property values of $245.7 million, an increase in gross receipts of $303.4 million; an increase in convention expenditures of $5.9 million; and a net growth (by 2015) of 3,900 jobs.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 45%

TTDC proposes that $288.6 million (55 percent) in Section 5309 New Start funds, $118.0 million (22.5 percent) in State funds, and $118.0 million (22.5 percent) in local funds be applied to the project.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Low

The Low capital financing plan rating reflects the lack of committed local funding sources for the project. Although the TTDC’s present capital position appears to be healthy, the project’s financial plan does not include a cash-flow analysis of the sources and uses of agency (or project) capital and operating funds, or the cost of other significant proposed capital projects. The capital financing plan indicates that State funds would provide $118 million for the project and local funds would provide an additional $118 million, but no proposed State or local sources of funds currently exist and each would require state legislative approval for their creation. Potential sources include a motor fuels sales tax, local option sales tax, recordation taxes, and joint development and other innovative sources. Capital cost estimates appear reasonable, but do not include inflation assumptions.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Low

The Low operating financing plan rating reflects the uncertainty of operating funding sources. An estimated $12 million will be needed annually to support operation and maintenance of the light rail system. No proposed local sources of funds currently exist and state legislative approval would be needed to create State and local funds. Insufficient information was provided to determine the ability of these proposed sources in covering potential cost overruns. In recent years, TTDC has experienced increasing ridership, a 35 percent farebox recovery ratio, and zero operating balances (on average).

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
Appropriations to Date
Federal: Section 5309 New Starts $288.60 $9.93 million appropriated through FY 1999
State: $118.00


Local: $118.00


Total: $524.62

Note: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.

[Norfolk-Virginia Beach Corridor Map (PDF)]

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