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Silver Line extension opening still up in the air, with summer as target date

An exact opening date for the Silver Line extension project has not yet been determined (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The 11.4-mile extension of the Silver Line is still eying a summer completion date, but an exact date remains elusive.

At a meeting earlier today (Thursday), the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Safety and Operations Committee did not provide a specific date for the completion of the $2.8 billion project.

Instead, members noted that cooperative agreements do not call for a specific date. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) is currently negotiating the period between substantial completion — which it completed in November — and Operational Readiness (OR).

Andrew Off, WMATA’s executive vice president of capital delivery, said that Metro’s general manager will officially determine an Operational Readiness Date (ORD) once OR testing is completed.

Because of the fluid nature of testing and issues that may arise as testing and certification continues, MWAA cannot provide a target opening date. Once the ORD is determined, Metro will formally accept the project from MWAA.

WMATA expects that a 90-day period of pre-revenue activities will then commence.

“There is no defined time period between substantial completion and operational readiness,” Off said, adding that the date of operation is “all condition based.”

That date has already been delayed several times, resulting in some consternation and frustration from county officials.

Metro’s punch list of the main line and station — known as Package A — is 80% complete. Package B — which covers the Dulles Yard — is 95% complete and has been “stagnant” for several weeks, Off said. Remaining items include contract safety certification and certificates of occupancy that are needed for employees.

Joe Leder, WMATA’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said 400 new employees have been hired for the extension project. Another 20 are expected to be hired by the end of the month.

Dulles District Supervisor Matthew Letourneu noted that the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission — which oversees and enforces safety practice of the rail system — must also complete its own safety enforcement measures, including a safety certification process.

“There’s obviously increasing interest in having this up and running,” Letourneu said.

He clarified with staff that WMSC’s reports should not produce additional delays or surprises because the commission is coordinating closely with Metro.

“As a result of this process, there shouldn’t be surprises from the WMSC that come kind of at the last minute because it’s been iterative,” he said.

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