Light Rail in Wards Corner a Dream, says Wright

A group from the Wards Corner Partnership attended the Ocean View Taskforce meeting this morning at the new Pretlow Library at the invitation of Councilman Randy Wright.  When prompted about light rail coming to Wards Corner,  Wright described it as a dream.  It is not on any drawing boards at this time, as the preferred route would go past ODU to the Naval Base.

Henry Ryto, Chairman of HRT’s User Citizen Advisory Committee, was present at this morning’s meeting and his comments, which were posted on the UrbanPlanet forums are below:

The blog Wards Corner Now overhyped the meeting. No announcement on extensions this morning.

1. HRT, beginning at this afternoon’s Commission meeting, will start a “visioning process” on where LRT should go.

2. Randy Wright said, “We want to go to Old Dominion University…We want to go to the Naval base.”

3. Eventually he’d like to see a line from Hampton Boulevard to Ocean View via Wards Corner.

I should have slept in.


14 Responses to Light Rail in Wards Corner a Dream, says Wright

  1. Eric Heard says:

    I know my view is in the minority but when Wards Corned is developed to the extent that is emminent, there will most certainly will be a way to get to it by rail. When Metro in DC began, it had a need to move tens of thousands of people around the Metropolitan area. As the area became more developed, the rail was more readily available. I think the vision for the light rail is “right on”. As we see the success of the rail commence, I am certain many changes will be made. Just an opinion not a sermon.

  2. Elyse Kalfus says:

    At one of the Wards Corner taskforce meetings our councilman Don Williams stated that he would do all he could to bring the next leg of the light rail right here through Wards Corner, of course that was in the future, and if I’m not mistaken we had two other council people Barclay Winn and Treasa Wibley or Daun Hester right here that day to support him and agree with that idea. Of course that was before the elections.

  3. Tim Smith says:

    Were is all the money going to come from to run the light rail through West Gent. You are going to have to buy and demo alot of apartments along Hampton Blvd between Sentara and the railroad overpass. We already own the land down the center of Granby Street. Granby will make the money go farther so we can have a better light rail system.

    I’ll say it again, you tie in Downtown with all the condos, the Zoo, 21st street/Riverview, Wards Corner & Ocean View with the Naval Base and you will get more riders than the Tide can handle at first. Now that it looks like the Tide will extend into Virginia Beach, you are adding even more riders.

    When do they think this sudden urge to go to ODU is going to happen? With the cost of tuition going up so fast I would not be suprised to see enrollment drop at ODU in the next ten years.

    Does Randy want the Tide to succeed or has he got some backroom deal going on? He does not care what happens to Wards Corner.

    Maybe the Tide will be the excuss to start redeveloping West Gent over Wards Corner. Can’t you just see all the nice new condos along Hampton Blvd. You will not be able to tell were Downtown ends. We can nick name West Gent the “Condo Canyon” like Bush Street.

  4. Henry Ryto says:

    I rate my own tag now? 🙂

  5. Tim Smith says:

    We are fair to everyone, even if you are a little to far to the West with light rail:) Do you know Eric?
    Thanks for being involved.

  6. Eric Heard says:

    Thanks for the introduction, Tim. I have experienced this situation in two areas that I have lived in. Even coming from a different opinion in the beginning about light rail, I have now lived it, watched it, depended on it and made money on it. Norfolk will experience some wonderous things in the next 50 years and I am glad to be observing this light rail phenomenon again.

  7. Henry Ryto says:


    The 3rd busiest bus route in South Hampton Roads is Route 1. The section between Cedar Grove and (yes) Wards Corner is busy enough to get rush hour “Cutback” buses. (A “Cutback” is an extra section that covers only a portion of a route.) Therefore, as a transit matter, LRT will need to go to Wards Corner in the medium term.

    No, I’ve never dealt with Eric Heard. I’m from Virginia Beach, so most of my dealings with Norfolk politicos has been Republicans as a Nick Rerras volunteer in 1999, 2003, and 2007.

  8. Tim Smith says:

    It is great to have more people on Wardscornernow to share their opinions. It makes for a more interesting web site.

    It sounds like everyone (so far) is in agreement that Wards Corner should be on the LRT route. The only area we seem to part ways is when Wards Corner should be included in LRT.

    I feel, and others agree in the Partnership, that Wards Corner should be part of Phase Two of the LRT. Setting a direct route from Downtown to Wards Corner/Naval Base seems to give us, the tax payers, more bang for the buck and will allow the LRT to gain a larger initial ridership. This will give us, the tax payers, a faster return on our investment. A route through Wards Corner will also allow LRT to easily grow to serve other areas like the airport, the beaches and connect to the peninsula.

    ODU and West Gent would be better served via a spur verses a through route. Wards Corner should serve as a hub for LRT into Norfolk and beyond. You need to build the hub first. The first phase of LRT into Downtown is essentially a spur line and only serves the business district.

    We in the Partnership continue to be amazed how for our elected officials go to avoid improving Wards Corner despite what the citizens, and hired consultants, say.

  9. Henry Ryto says:


    As I’ve posted before, Virginia Beach’s line in the sand is that it wants EVMS to the Navy base via ODU as a prerequisite to extending to the Oceanfront. Read Jim Wood’s Pilot quote on the matter this week ; Vice Mayor Louis Jones first staked the position out.

    Where I’d like to see Wards Corner come online is a Naval base to Great Bridge line roughly paralleling bus Route 15, the 2nd busiest in South Hampton Roads.

  10. Tim Smith says:

    We have enough problems getting our own elected officials to listen to us, now we have the Vice Mayor of Virginia Beach to deal with.
    Give me a break…

    The Beach residents are being served by LRT for two main reasons. Get into/out of Downtown Norfolk and to/from the Naval Base. I lived in Virginia Beach for 8 years and moved to Norfolk so I would not have to drive in that mess every day. In the future all of Southside will be served by LRT through it’s link to the peninsula and parts North.

    How they travel through Norfolk will be less of a concern as to how long they will have to travel through Norfolk. Newtown to Downtown is the most direct route for those commuters and through Wards Corner is the most direct route for the Base commuters and those in the future who will travel outside of our area.

    EVMS to ODU is the most expensive route LRT could take through Norfolk. It also happens to fit into Downtown’s plan to redevelop West Gent and to add value to all the open land that ODU has spent the last 30 years acquiring.

    The people going to the Naval Base can get there through Wards Corner, as most do today, just as well and quicker. Look on the map, going the EVMS by ODU route to the base is like going around your backside to get to your elbow from Newtown Road. Is that the way you would go to the base?

    I seem to remember the concern that the Hotel Association had with the urban children being able to ride the LRT from Norfolk to the waterfront a few years ago. You think the route around the core of Norfolk would dampen those concerns?

    I would think in these time of tighter governmental budgets that you, like myself, as a tax payer funding this project, would want the most economical/most people served route for LRT. If HRT loses money on LRT, it will be you and I that make up the difference.

    It looks like politics is going to hurt LRT in Hampton Roads.

  11. Dale Watson says:

    As both a student at Old Dominion and an employee of a Wards Corner business I can understand the need for light rail service in the area. However it is my belief that the ODU-Naval station area as the most need at this time.

    The truth is a much as the area would benefit from the light rail leg, all that would have to be done is to build a stop at the intersection of terminal and use an express bus as a link to the transfer station. The need is to extend the light rail in a direction that will flow with the layout of the initial plan.

    In response to Tim Smith, the reason the ODU leg is being added is that it follows the CSX corridor parellel to 264 which allows the city to spend the fewest possible tax dollars acquiring propery. Another reason the line is running next to ODU is that the system provides a influx of low cost student workers to employers close to the light rail.

  12. Tim Smith says:

    Can anyone get me a link to a study of Phase II LRT routes, i.e. Newtown to Naval Base via Wards Corner; EVMC/ODU; I64 corridor etc. Phase II studies should be completed by now or close to it. Phase III studies need to be started soon. Not the study by HRT or the city but a study by a third party with no ties to the area. I would like to see the numbers and recommendations at the regional level. LRT is not going to be just a Norfolk thing, even though Norfolk started it.

    It seems to me that LRT is a means to reduce vehicle traffic into and out of an urban setting not to replace bus routes. Any of the big cities I have been to, New York, Boston, DC, Chicago, etc, have all used bus routes in conjunction with their LRT.

    The four main congested traffic routes through Norfolk are:

    1) I64/I546 to the Naval Base (includes Virginia Beach & Chesapeake)

    2) I64/I264 to Downtown (includes Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth & Suffolk)

    3) I64 to the Peninsula (includes all of Southside, East of Bowers Hill)

    4) SR 337 (Hampton Blvd) Midtown Tunnel to the Naval Base (includes Portsmouth & Suffolk)

    Phase 1 of LRT addresses route #2 (Virginia Beach commuters only) above with the majority of the workers riding into Downtown getting on and off of LRT within one stop of the MacArthur Mall. You will still have a large number of commuter traffic via the Downtown Tunnel feeding into Norfolk.

    Phase II needs to address the Naval Base congestion. A route through Downtown/EVMC/ODU will add an estimated 12-14 station stop for those who would be commuting the I64/I564 corridor. A route through Wards Corner would only add 5-8 station stops. This does not include the reduction in miles LRT has to travel.

    Additional Phases need to address routes #4 & #3 above with Route #3 moving through Wards Corner as a LRT transfer station from one line to another. Your bus lines are then adjusted to move people from the station stops to required areas outside of the LRT foot commute zone.

    Remember your universities are moving to fill the on-line demand for education and part of ODU’s enrollment is attending the satellite campuses, not to mention the students that already live within walking distance of the campus. The actual LRT student commuter will be a very small percentage of the riders utilizing LRT on a daily bases. ODU could still be fed via a spur line from Wards Corner down Hampton Blvd with the eventual tie in of a route from Portsmouth/Suffolk through the Midtown Tunnel then linking EVMC/Downtown & ODU through West Gent.

    Wards Corner is going to be a major player in LRT at some time so it might as well be early on before our redevelopment starts so the Wards Corner Comprehensive Plan can be adjusted. LRT is mentioned in our study, so they planners were thinking about it early on.

    Somebody please show me the flaw in my plan in a study, not by what you were told.

  13. Tim Smith says:

    I found references to studies, paid by tax payers, done early on that the LRT EVMC/ODU/Naval Base route was “problematic” because of the density of the housing along Hamton Blvd. The perfered LRT route was through Wards Corner. There was even a map produced showing the route through Wards Corner to the base. Unfortuately HRT has removed the link from teir web site. It seems every study that showed Wards Corner as the LRT route has had their links disconected.

  14. The matter reagrding Light Rail should focus on the cost, retrun on investment, and who is targeted to pay for it.

    TOD will increase property values along the rail corridor. As such, those property owners should be required to pay for the costs related to building and maintaining Light Rail.

    In addition, the users of the Light Rail should be required to pay enough in fares to cover the operating costs.

    The use of an increased property tax mill rate along a Light rail corridor is also a far method of helping to defray costs.

    The problem I view with Light rail is that it’s advocates do not appear willing to step up and pay for it – instead they are looking for someone else to pay for it.

    This is usually the taxpayer – and can be a private business “partner” under the PPTA.

    My question is how much are the property owners, business owners, and riders in Wards Corner willing to pay in new taxes, fees, fares, and tolls (on roads that will have toll money used to fund rail) to have Light Rail?

    If those that benefit most are willing to pay for it – then that’s great and the project should have no trouble moving forward.

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