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Norfolk plans light rail extension to Naval Station

Jordan Crawford | 9/26/2013, 11:20 a.m.

Norfolk city officials are pleased with the Tide light rail’s success and want to begin the process of extending it to the Norfolk Naval Station. About 40 community members plotted the future of the light-rail line last Tuesday with string, push pins, and a big map.

They went to Norfolk Naval Station and the airport, through Ghent and past Old Dominion University, to Wards Corner and Janaf Shopping Center. They were not restrained by budgets - which made the options essentially unlimited.

Their work was an exercise that was repeated over the next two days as Hampton Roads Transit and Norfolk gathered opinions on how people would like to see The Tide get to the naval station, if an extension were built. The workshops are part of a study that is expected to end in June.

When finished, the HRT staff hopes to have a handful of routes resulting from public feedback to present to the City Council, and a description of what residents think are the purpose and need of extending The Tide to the Navy base.

This would provide enough data to begin the next step in the long process of building a light rail extension, along with a federal study of the environmental impacts. No funding has been identified for the study.

Last Tuesday at the Holiday Inn on Greenwich Road, five groups of about eight each were tasked with coming to a consensus on three corridors to the naval station. Bob Batcher, Norfolk's communications director, encouraged them by microphone as the teams discussed their routes.

“I want to see you shake out those preconceived notions of where you think the string should go,” he said.

Julie Timm, HRT's transit development officer, said civic and community groups can request to hold their own mapping workshops. Comments can be submitted online and information about the study is at www.gohrt.com/nsntes.

The residents' maps will be photographed and converted to digital versions that will help planners find the most commonly suggested corridors. Researchers will then narrow the options by dismissing those that run into fatal flaws, such as routes that would traverse cemeteries or require the demolition of numerous historic buildings.

Norfolk and HRT's research into the naval station extension is a separate initiative from the Virginia Beach Transit Extension Study.