Updated: Tuesday, 27 Nov 2012, 7:07 PM EST
Published : Wednesday, 07 Nov 2012, 6:08 AM EST
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) - Decision 2012 resulted in another step toward extending light rail into Virginia Beach.
The question on Tuesday's ballot read: "Should the Virginia Beach 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?"
The referendum was passed with overwhelming support from voters on Tuesday, but Mayor Will Sessoms says that doesn't mean the light rail is coming to Virginia Beach just yet.
"What we need to do now is wait on the study that Hampton Roads Transit is doing and those results will certainly have major impact," Sessoms said.
Sessoms said the results of the study should be in by June or July of 2013, and will give the city a better idea of how much it will cost to build the light rail.
A consultant group estimated it could cost $254 million to bring the light rail from Newtown Road to Town Center, and $807 million to bring light rail to the Oceanfront.
"I've also heard that someone on the private side can come in and build this project for considerably less," Sessoms said.
Now that the referendum has passed, Sessoms says Virginia Beach City Council can discuss financing options and look for federal funding.
Without federal funding, Sessoms says city council would likely put the brakes on the light rail project.
"It would be hard to move forward. We would wait and see when that type of money would be avaliable again then jump on it," Sessoms said.
Sessoms feels confident Virginia Beach could secure that funding, but it could still be years before council moves on the project. The referendum now allows city council to discuss and explore the option of light rail in Virginia Beach.
"We were very guarded even using the word 'light rail' in Virginia Beach as far as for planning. Now we can take that guard down. The people have spoken," said Sessoms.
Sessoms said before any decisions are made, there will be a thorough evaluation as to whether or not the federal money is available to assist with the project's hefty cost. He said there will also room for more public input.
Commonwealth Transportation Board member Aubrey Layne says it could be 2018 or 2020 before the light rail is moving in Virginia Beach.
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