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Silver Line extension opening date pushed once again to summer 2022

Metro’s Silver Line Phase 2 isn’t isn’t expected to be completed until the summer (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated on March 3 to add additional quote) The long-delayed 11.4-mile Silver Line extension to Dulles International Airport and into Loudoun County will not open until this summer.

Last month, the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority (MWAA) maintained that trains would run this spring, but at a Tuesday meeting with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, transportation officials said they anticipate a summer 2022 opening.

“We believe that early summer is a good time to start thinking about some of the activities related to opening,” said Martha Coello, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation’s Special Projects Division chief.  “Obviously we need to get through the testing they are trying to narrow down what’s needed for operational readiness for WMATA to declare that and obviously we want to make sure there is enough time for WMATA to complete their pre-revenue activities.”

County supervisors said they were exasperated by delays in the opening of the $2.8 billion project. There will be six new stations, from Reston Town Center into Ashburn.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said he was concerned that officials could not provide an opening date, pointing to what he said was poor project management.

“It’s inconceivable that a $3 billion project does not have a schedule showing a projected completion date that the activities that have to be accomplished [by] to achieve that completion date,” Foust said.

FCDOT Director Tom Biesiadny noted that opening day will depend how quickly testing is completed.

“The tactic has been a little bit different this time to speak in generalities and not to put a specific date out there,” Biesiadny said, noting that the project has already repeatedly missed completion deadlines.

Once it finishes conducting its testing, MWAA will hand over the project over to Metro. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) board of directors will set a formal opening date once it determines it is operationally prepared to handle the opening.

MWAA is still conducting operational readiness testing through simulated service. Pre-revenue activities will follow once operational readiness is achieved, including warranty management, policy and procedure updates, and asset inventory. That process could take up to 90 days.

An issue related to heat tape deficiency — which prevents ice buildup on the rail when it rains or snows — remains unresolved, and roughly 74% of testing for tracks, stations and system is still pending. Hiring and training is already underway.

The county has begun planning with WMATA for opening ceremonies. The county board also approved an updated bus service plan on Feb. 22 that was created with the new rail service in mind.

Construction on a new sidewalk on Sunrise Valley near Reston Parkway is expected to begin this spring. The county also plans to remove a bus bay at Wiehle Avenue.

MWAA reached substantial completion on phase 2 of the Silver Line in November after months of delays.

“We are at the mercy of WMATA now,” Hunter Mill District Suprvisor Walter Alcorn said.

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