VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) -- Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) said Monday that the cost to extend The Tide to Virginia Beach Town Center would be approximately $243.1 million.
That figure is roughly $84 million less than initial estimates which put the amount at $327 million.
We could get a much better sense just how much extending the light rail into Virginia Beach could cost taxpayers.
HRT made the announcement when staff members presented the results of its projected cost study.
"Our goal was to get the city of Virginia Beach a good number to build off of, and certainly this number reflects that," said William Harrell, president of HRT.
The new estimate does not include enhancements the city is considering on adding, like a shared bike and walk path along the rail line.
The transit system has long been a hot topic here in Hampton Roads, from its potential funding sources to where it could extend into Virginia Beach.
According to The Virginian-Pilot, an engineering firm that released a cost estimation study in February 2015 analyzed the price of construction materials, right-of-way acquisition costs, site prep expenses, maintenance costs, and considered $11 million needed for additional bus service to light rail stations when it arrived at the $327 million estimate.
The new cost figures come weeks before voters in Virginia Beach will decide with referendum at the polls whether the project is worth their tax money.
The state has offered to pay $155 million for the extension, leaving taxpayers on the hook for $88 million.
Mayor Will Sessoms, who is up for re-election and supports extending The Tide, said the new lower estimate was "encouraging."
As we look to light rail, I don't want us to just talk about Newtown Road to Town Center," Sessoms told 13News Now. "Because frankly it's so much more than that. This is a transportation system that our city and our region desperately need."
However, John Atkinson, the city treasurer and head of the group No Light Rail VB, dismissed the authenticity of HRT's estimates.
"The problem really with the number is it's from Hampton Roads Transit," Atkinson said. "They don't have any credibility or accountability to the citizens of Virginia Beach."
HRT will formally present their findings to city council Tuesday afternoon.