Virginia Beach Trail Path

VIRGINIA BEACH — After decades of planning, a former  railroad corridor that runs through key areas of …

VIRGINIA BEACH — After decades of planning, a former  railroad corridor that runs through key areas of  Virginia Beach has moved a step closer to becoming a dedicated path for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently  awarded the city $14.9 million for the Virginia Beach  Trail. The money will be used to build a 3-mile  segment from Newtown Road to Town Center.

The trail in its entirety will eventually run the length  of the city, a total of 12 miles. It will connect to an  existing segment along Norfolk Avenue, between Birdneck Road and Pacific Avenue, at the  Oceanfront.  The path will be built along the same  corridor where a light rail extension from Norfolk  was proposed, but rejected by voters, in 2016.

Virginia Beach was one of hundreds of recipients of the Safe Streets and Roads for All grant program,  which recently provided $800 million to 385 communities. The multiyear grant program began in  2022 and has awarded $1.7 billion in federal funding  to more than 1,000 communities in all 50 states and  Puerto Rico.

To qualify, localities had to meet certain criteria  including a plan to improve safety and help prevent  deaths and serious injuries on roadways. 

In Virginia Beach the money will be used to build one segment of the 10-foot-wide multipurpose trail,  which will run along the former Norfolk Southern railroad alignment, now owned by the city. It will  extend from Newtown Road to Constitution Drive in  Town Center and will include a pedestrian bridge  over Independence Boulevard.

“Town Center is largely disconnected and difficult for pedestrians in surrounding neighborhoods and  businesses to access,” the city’s grant application  said. “The highest-risk crossing for pedestrians and  cyclists lies in crossing the 10-lane Independence  Boulevard — the most highly trafficked corridor in  the city with more than 80,000 vehicles per day.”

The trail will provide a safer alternative to crossing  busy intersections along Virginia Beach Boulevard, a  congested commercial area where pedestrian fatalities have occurred.

Originally conceived in the 1980s, the Virginia Beach  Trail was first funded in the city’s capital  improvement budget for fiscal year 2024 with a  $750,000 Housing and Urban Development grant.  Following the city’s sale of an easement to Dominion  Energy in November for an offshore wind  project, an additional $902,000 was appropriated for  the trail project.

But Virginia Beach has been trying to find a  substantial funding source to begin the  construction phase.

A local 20% match is a requirement of the federal  grant, and the City Council will likely appropriate  the funds and accept it soon.

The Virginia Beach Trail is the easternmost segment  of the regional South Hampton Roads Trail, a  proposed path that runs through Suffolk, Portsmouth, Norfolk and Chesapeake. The 3-mile segment will be  completed within five years, according to the city’s  grant application.

Charles Rigney, the city’s interim director of  economic development, said his team is already  looking at redevelopment opportunities along the  corridor.

“This grant … is a real shot in the arm for us getting  going on this thing,” Rigney told members of the  Virginia Beach Development Authority Dec. 19. “Where we’ve seen these in the past in the country, there  are real opportunities for development and  enhancement.”

The Virginian Pilot – Stacy Parker, 757-222-5125,

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