Richmond City Council is poised to make a crucial decision Monday night for the city’s biggest public transportation project.
After years of planning, endless discussion at public meetings, a grassroots campaign set on slowing the process and a threat from Gov. Terry McAuliffe to get things moving or risk losing federal funding, council members will vote on whether to move forward with the $54 million Broad Street Bus Rapid Transit project. Supporters have said the project, dubbed the GRTC Pulse, is the first step to developing a more robust regional transportation system.
The Planning Commission approved the design and construction of the project in November. However, some city council members have said they still have numerous questions, including how much the cash-strapped city will have to kick to keep the line operating once it's running. At least two, Chris Hilbert and Reva Trammell, say they will oppose the project.
The RVA Coalition for Smart Transit, a collective representing 12 neighborhood organizations along the proposed route, also has raised several questions: Does the proposed route actually expand service to low-income communities who are public transportation dependent? How does the Pulse fit into a regional transportation grid? Will the construction process be detrimental to businesses along the route?
The group has sought to return the project to its original timeline, which would delay it for a year. It is unclear whether they have persuaded five of the nine council members to press pause on the project.
In 2014, Richmond received a coveted federal grant to cover half the project's cost. The Pulse would eliminate some parking, loading zones and left turns along the 7.6-mile corridor connecting Willow Lawn and Rockett’s Landing to make room for buses to travel in dedicated lanes. The system would cut trip times for bus riders traveling between the two destinations in half, from an hour to about 30 minutes.
If approved Monday, construction will begin this summer.