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Pilot allows the truth to be published on lite-rail!!!!
Posted on Tuesday, July 07 @ 04:14:44 MST by editor

Fake News Alert

Pilot allows Columnist to go  anti-editorial  policy on social engineering

Roger Chesley

Pilot Columnist

and Part Time

Social Engineer 

Virginia Beach's John Atkinson [city treasurer] got a  that-a-boy from the Pilot's Columnist and  part-time social engineer, Roger Chesley in Roger's 7/7/15 column.

The Pilot allows the truth to be published for a change!!!!!

If Virginia Beach residents knew in 2012 what they know now, would they have overwhelmingly supported an extension of light rail from Norfolk?

That's the question Beach City Treasurer John Atkinson, in essence, posited in his nascent campaign to derail the pricey transit option. He's gotten hundreds of followers.

Will that be enough to sway more council members to cool their ardor?

The Pilot's John Holland reported Sunday that Atkinson received more than 1,600 signed copies of ads he ran in local newspapers last month, including the Beacon community news section of The Pilot. He had urged readers to mail the ads to him.

Atkinson told me Monday he's received more than $18,000 in cash and checks from more than 500 people. Others have pledged money.

"I see nothing of value in light rail," Atkinson added. "It does not move people. It does not eliminate traffic. It includes operating deficits of $5 million a year. I just don't see the benefits."

Those are some of the same issues I've pondered, even as many local officials laud the proposal.

"I do think rail is a vital part of the future of the city," Mayor Will Sessoms said Monday. "It will reap great rewards for development along the line. It brings in tax revenue."

Light rail proponents repeatedly note Beach voters passed the advisory referendum in 2012, during the presidential contest in which voter turnout is high.

Voters answered the following: "Should the City Council adopt an ordinance approving the use of all reasonable efforts to support the financing and development of The Tide light rail into Virginia Beach?" Some 116,056 voted yes, and 68,848 said no. So 63 percent approved it.

Detractors say the nonbinding referendum didn't really ask whether voters supported light rail. But it sure came close.

The bigger issue, though, is that voters didn't have better cost estimates in 2012. Atkinson has tapped into that discord. And because he's been treasurer since 1978, he's not your average naysayer.

HRT officials said in September 2014 the cost from Newtown Road to Town Center would be $327 million.

"That estimate would cover construction of the 3-mile route and its end station; the purchase of four light-rail vehicles; the acquisition of real estate; and improvements to The Tide's control center in Norfolk," The Pilot reported then.

At the time of the referendum, though, a consultant had provided rough estimates of $254 million to extend The Tide to Town Center and $807 million to run it to the Oceanfront.

Sessoms questioned whether the latest estimate is fair, though, given the high amount of contingency funds. He said that number is nearly $85 million of the $327 million total. The mayor said better numbers should be ready in a year.

I understand the financial pressure was on City Council to keep the choo-choo alive. Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne had said the state would seek repayment of $20 million it funded years ago to help the Beach buy the Norfolk Southern right-of-way - if the city didn't continue with the project.

Council members voted in May to support extending light rail to Town Center, and it included $20 million in the 2015-16 budget for the project.

The state also has offered $155 million toward the Beach extension.

Still, that money is coming from taxpayers. People around the state should be outraged given the huge outlays and the low projected ridership.

HRT has said that by 2034 just 2,250 average weekday "boardings" at the Beach stations will occur - or about 1,100 individual riders.

If taxpayers in our region were forced to pay for such largesse in Northern Virginia, Richmond or Roanoke, how would we respond?

That's what Atkinson refuses to ignore.


 
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