Aaron Applegate and Dave Forster for The Virginian-Pilot 6 months ago

Va. Beach receives two more train service proposals

VIRGINIA BEACH -- Two more private companies want a chance to extend passenger train service into Virginia Beach.

One wants to use magnetic levitation technology instead of traditional light rail.

Monday was the deadline for firms to submit proposals to the city to build a system that would connect with Norfolk's Tide. The two new proposals follow an unsolicited plan that a group led by Philip Shucet, the former Hampton Roads Transit president and CEO, brought to the city in April. City officials then asked for other proposals.

At the same time, Hampton Roads Transit is researching a public sector light-rail project. A study on that option is expected next year.

One of Monday's new proposals came from American Maglev Technology, based in Georgia.

The other came from Parsons Construction Group, a unit of Parsons, an engineering, construction and management services firm based in California. The company has built light-rail systems in cities including Houston, Salt Lake City, Dallas, Los Angeles and Denver, said Richard White, a rail program analyst for the company.

American Maglev Technology is proposing to build an elevated concrete structure akin to the Disney World Monorail that would use magnetic levitation and electricity to propel vehicles up to 60 mph, said Tony Morris, the president and CEO of the company. He estimated he could build a line to the Oceanfront for about $344 million.

Morris was involved in developing a maglev track at Old Dominion University that never worked as promised. He said the ODU system suffered technical problems that he has since worked out, and that he has an operational test track in Powder Springs, Ga.

Passengers would have to leave The Tide and transfer to a maglev vehicle at Newtown Road to continue the trip through Virginia Beach, Morris said.

"That's certainly an engineering issue," said Virginia Beach Deputy City Manager Dave Hansen, who will help review the proposals. "We're open-minded."

Parsons' White said he couldn't comment on the route, length or cost of his company's proposal.

Last month, HRT officials said it would cost just over $1 billion to build a 12.2-mile line on a city-owned right of way across Virginia Beach to the Oceanfront. HRT is studying an alternative route along Laskin Road through the Hilltop shopping area. HRT is expected to announce the projected cost of the 13.5-mile Hilltop route in November.

Shucet's group has proposed building a 5.2-mile line from Newtown to Rosemont Road for $235 million.

HRT officials have said that price doesn't include significant money for contingencies and doesn't take into account money the city has spent acquiring the right of way, other land purchases and the cost of the ongoing $6.6 million study.

City staffers will give the City Council more information about the train proposals at a Nov. 12 meeting. Officials will then spend several months evaluating potential plans, and a recommendation will be made to the City Council in the spring, Hansen said.

Aaron Applegate, 757-222-5122,aaron.applegate@pilotonline.com

Dave Forster, 757-446-2627,dave.forster@pilotonline.com ___

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