A CEREMONY to mark the approval of federal funding for the $232·1m light rail project in Norfolk, Virginia, took place on October 1, two days after the project was cleared by the US Congress.

The $128m Full Funding Grant Agreement was approved only days after the Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads agreed to purchase nine S70 Avanto cars from Siemens for $36m. The order was placed as a follow-on to the Charlotte Area Transit System's procurement of 16 cars.

Hampton Roads Transit has also placed a notice for the first of 11 construction contracts for the line, covering an elevated segment between Harbor Park and Norfolk State University. The winning bidder should be selected by late November and four additional contracts are expected to be signed by the end of January 2008.

Having been held up at the planning stage for more than two decades, the 11·9 km line, which will serve 11 stations, is scheduled to open in early 2010. Extensions to the Norfolk Naval Base, Old Dominion University and Norfolk International Airport will be considered subsequently.