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As local officials debate the merits extending The Tide light rail line, the time is ticking on state funding that’s been made available for the project.
A majority of members of the Virginia Beach City Council haven’t supported their millennial-adverse city treasurer’s push to stop the extension of The Tide light-rail line into Virginia’s largest city from nearby Norfolk.
At least one councilman, Bobby Dyer, wanted to back Treasurer John Atkinson’s proposed ballot measure to reverse a 2012 referendum that showed overwhelming support for light-rail expansion into Virginia Beach, The Virginian-Pilot reported. But fellow council members talked him down at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Atkinson previously made incendiary comments that transit-loving millennials wanting a “freebie” should just move to Norfolk—comments that were rebuffed by the public during the comment period and by many urbanists around the nation .
“That is not the image of what the council wants to project,” said Councilman Jim Wood in response. Not even Dyer would defend Atkinson’s statements, according to The Virginian-Pilot .
The problem is the 2012 referendum, supported by 62 percent of voters, was nonbinding, and Atkinson’s No Light Rail in Virginia Beach group claims to have double the petition signatures needed to get their measure on the ballot, WVEC-TV reported.
“The question is: Should City Council of Virginia Beach spend local funds to extend light rail from Norfolk to Town Center in Virginia Beach?” Atkinson told the station. “Simple. Can be answered with a, ‘yes,’ or a, ‘no.’”
Members of the council have until April 30 to submit a memorandum of understanding to Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board to retain $155 million in state funding that’s been set aside for the project. But there won’t be an estimate on construction costs until April 2017.
“A lot of things have changed since 2012,” said Councilwoman Shannon Kane at Tuesday’s meeting. “And maybe the citizens, they do need to weigh in and let us know how they feel.”