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Silver Line extension opening date, cause of heat issue remain elusive

The Reston Town Center Metro station (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

No one raised even the semblance of a timeframe for opening the long-delayed extension of the Silver Line into Loudoun County during a Metro board discussion on the issue yesterday morning (Thursday).

Officials provided no specific date for when the 11.4-mile extension could begin operations. A late summer opening was anticipated after a series of previous delays, but even that appears tentative at best.

Instead, officials say they’re focusing on reaching a long-anticipated milestone: operational readiness. A major condition of this step is testing conducted by Metro.

Andrew Off, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s executive vice president of capital delivery. told WMATA’s Safety and Operations Committee that the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has not made significant progress on safety certifications for the Dulles International Airport rail yard, noting that the process seems to be “taking more time than usual.”

MWAA has also not determined the root cause of a problem related to heat tape, which prevents ice build-up on the rail when it rains or snow.

“We’re trying to figure out what the real problem is,” Off said.

Before operational readiness is declared, MWAA must resolve critical operational issues. If Metro accepts the project from MWAA, the entity will continue a nearly three-month period of broadly defined “pre-revenue activities” before trains start running.

That date has already been delayed several times, resulting in some mounting frustration from Fairfax County officials.

At the meeting, officials emphasized that there is not fixed duration for Metro to declare operational readiness, because it depends entirely on the progress of testing.

Overall, punch list progress is nearly complete. Roughly 85% of the punch list for Package A — the main line and stations — has been complete, along with 97% for Package B — which covers the Dulles rail yard.

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