The vote on allocating funds for the Town Center Tide Extension set the stage for Virginia Beach City Council’s commitment to molding our beautiful coastal city into one that will continue to attract business, tourists, and new residents. The resulting increase in our tax base will help facilitate future projects, maintain and improve infrastructure, and provide for a world class school system without forcing senior citizens out of their lifetime homes by utilizing only increases in the real estate tax.
The alternative, which a dictatorial group is intent on forcing on the citizenry, would propel the city back into the 1970’s. There can be no doubt about their goal after the group leader’s statement that millennials should move to Norfolk. One Virginian Pilot letter to the editor writer even suggested that they move to Charlotte. Are these the same individuals who were vocal in attempting to stop the development of Town Center and a plethora of other highly successful projects?
Time marches on. It will only be a flash in the evolving history of Virginia Beach before these millennials are the generation who will assume leadership positions in Hampton Roads. Do we really want Virginia Beach to become an aging, dying city with no vision for the future?
I was living in Atlanta when MARTA, the subway & rail system, was conceived and built. One county opted out. Their reasons were similar to what we see espoused by the Anti-Tide group. The system, decades later, is extremely successful. It is convenient and inexpensive to take a train from a station in close proximity to one’s hotel and exit inside the terminal at the Atlanta airport. It began with a vision. And the county that opted out is left out.
If not illegal, it must be unethical for an elected Constitutional Officer to be using his platform to begin and lead a movement to block the extension of Light Rail to Town Center. Perhaps the City Treasurer needs to be reminded that the funds he is entrusted with belong to the people, not to him personally. When the Treasurer of any organization attempts to dictate where the funds are allocated, it is time for a new face in that office. Perhaps the petitions being circulated should be for impeachment.
Those who hold to the past don’t want to admit that rail is the transportation mode of the future. We can either join or be left behind. Rail saves commute time, pollution from fuel, gasoline costs, auto purchase and maintenance costs, and possibly the health of those who stress and fume when stuck in traffic. The list of benefits could go on and on.
It isn’t realistic to expect Light Rail to pay for itself. Does our interstate highway system pay for itself? Do the surface streets we travel each day pay for themselves? Do we expect the new Lesner Bridge to pay for itself? Our existing infrastructure requires continuous maintenance and both city and state staffs and employees to maintain. They are paid for by taxpayer dollars which we don’t question.
The Town Center line is the logical step that Virginia Beach can take to begin expanding the starter line into a system connecting Southside Hampton Roads. Following this move, an extension to the Oceanfront would be in order. Norfolk should explore an extension to ODU, Norfolk Naval Station & Norfolk International Airport. In conjunction with Chesapeake an extension should be added to the heavily traveled commuting areas of Great Bridge/Hickory/Grassfield. A Park & Ride for the Chesapeake residents, along with the bedroom communities of Moyock & Elizabeth City would take a large volume of traffic off the much congested rush hour I-64 corridor.
Currently travel to a restaurant in Norfolk or to MacArthur Center is far more easily accomplished by taking The Tide. How I wish the line had existed during my late husband’s final hospitalization at Norfolk General. The parking lot fees during the extended time period were astronomical. Sometimes I ride to the end of the line and back to Newtown Road just to see the new development that is continually being built in downtown Norfolk in close proximity to the Tide. When my NYC son came to visit recently, I took him and his family on the same ride to proudly show off this Tide inspired urban development. How different downtown Norfolk is than when he moved away.
An extension of the Tide will allow business and convention travelers staying at downtown Norfolk hotels to easily shop and dine at our ever expanding Central Business District. As a past event organizer for a large convention held at a Norfolk Hotel & Conference Center, I can attest to the fact that ladies at that Convention from all over the Commonwealth wanted to dine and shop in Virginia Beach but weren’t comfortable with navigating the traffic in our area. Future extension of the Tide to the Oceanfront would allow for shared tourism between Virginia Beach and Norfolk.
Virginia Beach already owns the former Norfolk Southern rail line to Town Center. The Commonwealth of Virginia has allocated a large sum of money to be used on this extension. City Council already has funds earmarked for this project. Studies have already been completed regarding the best location for a Town Center Tide Station.
Why is this issue even being debated? We are so far along already. Now is the time for action. There may never be another opportunity.