The Rail Way - Right Side

The region's train scam is an expensive amenity that won't solve our traffic woes.



Is Norfolk's Light Rail an ineffective way to do with traffic in Hampton Roads?

One of my favorite ads during the recent pester-fest, also known as the campaign season, was the radio spot in favor of the Virginia Beach light rail referendum. In summary it said, “If we listened to all the nattering nabobs who were against stuff in the past, we would now resemble Calcutta in 1910. If you say no, you’re just not as smart or as visionary as the rest of us.” Let’s be clear that there’s a large delineation between patently saying no to progress, and saying no to high-priced amenities. And that’s what the tram scam is at this point—an amenity, not a necessity.

Necessities are things that you, a group or a community can’t function properly without. Amenities are add-ons, enticements, bonuses on top of the necessities. An apartment for many is a necessity. The workout room with flat-screen television in the apartment complex is an amenity. The light rail project in Norfolk was put forth as a necessity to help alleviate traffic. Even at an estimated 5,000 riders per day, it has not helped traffic on I-264, just like the HOV lanes on I-64 have not noticeably helped the morning and afternoon thicket of drivers. Which brings us to the question, are we planning on spending hundreds of millions of dollars more on light rail to Virginia Beach as a way to help traffic or to provide a service to people?

The answer to this not-so-puzzling question is found in another question: is the worst traffic in Hampton Roads on I-264 between Norfolk and Virginia Beach? As someone who makes that drive daily, I can quickly answer, “No!” Compared to the Downtown Tunnel, the Midtown Tunnel, the HRBT and the MMBT, I-264 is the Autobahn. So, if we all agree where the worst traffic is, and that the light rail will not address it, why on earth would we spend a sizable chunk of change, plus go begging for already needed state and federal dollars, to plow into a monorail? Why? Because some people, when elected to office, think their job is to come up with grand plans with your tax dollars instead of simply using them efficiently in the first place.

Now look, I realize that running a spur to Norfolk Naval Station at some point down the rails would be a great asset to those trying to get into Gate 3 each morning. But does that mean you’d have to drive to Newtown Road first?