A long-planned rapid transit route that would speed travel up and down Broad Street won a $24.9 million federal grant, Sen. Mark R. Warner announced today. Transit officials have said the funding, which would cover nearly half the cost of the project, means that construction could begin as soon as 2016.
“We are absolutely thrilled," Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones said in a statement. "This is a game changer for the city of Richmond and the region. This really puts the face of transit in a very positive light and will be great for economic development in the Richmond region.”
The project has been in the works since 2010, but funding has been a major hurdle. When the city applied for the grant, the city’s director of economic and community development, Lee Downey, said that winning it would be “a giant leap forward.”
Gov. Terry McAuliffe gave the city’s application for the grant, which is considered highly competitive, a significant boost when he announced it was the only application from the state that he was personally endorsing.
The project is estimated to cost $53 million. In addition to the federal money, GRTC officials have said that $17 million would come from the state and another $8 million would come from Richmond and Henrico County.
The proposed line uses bus rapid transit, which operates more like a light rail system than a bus line. The service would run from Rocketts Landing to Willow Lawn, saving time with limited stops -- 14 along the 7.6-mile route -- and street-level stations where passengers buy tickets before boarding. The system would use dedicated traffic lanes in the city center and receive priority at traffic lights.
The service also would run more frequently than current lines, with service every 10 minutes during peak hours.