With approval for more trains, Metro still on track to open Silver Line extension by Thanksgiving

A silver line Metro train, seen from The Perch in Tysons (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Phase II of the Silver Line is still on track for opening by Thanksgiving, according to a Metro spokesperson.

The news comes after a key hang-up for the opening of nearly 11-mile extension — the need for more trains — was resolved today (Tuesday) after the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission announced its approval of Metro’s plan to bring back more its 7000-series trains.

Metro’s General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Randy Clarke welcome the approval of its plan — although an exact  opening date still remains elusive. Last week, Metro announced it hoped to open the extension to Dulles International Airport in time for Thanksgiving travel.

“With this approval and close collaboration on the Silver Line extension safety report, Metro will be able to set an opening date in the near future,” Clarke wrote in a statement.

Several safety issues and approvals are still needed.

In a statement last week, Metro said it was awaiting the WMSC’s approval of its return to service plan and disagreed with the commission’s methodology to determine the safety of the trains. At the time, Metro anticipated opening in time for Thanksgiving travel.

In an Oct. 17 letter to Metro, WMSC’s deputy CEO and Sharmila Samarasinghe said that its previous plan was not supported by “available safety information.” Those issues have now been largely resolved.

But the WMSC still needs to complete its concurrence of the project. Metro is still working through a number of open items to obtain WMSC’s concurrence the project, a WMSC spokesperson said.

Final approvals from the Federal Transit Administration are also needed.

More from WMSC on the technicalities of the approval to the overall return to service plan, after the jump:

The plan includes specific data collection and analysis related to vehicles and vehicle-track interaction including continued use of the Metrorail Vehicle and Track Working Group established under the September 2, 2022 plan revision to address engineering recommendations and suggestions previously identified by Metrorail, any additional information from the ongoing National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) derailment investigation, and other Metrorail data including known wheel migration. This step is followed by future phases that would, if supported by the available data, include the use of cars with low tonnage axles on all lines, followed by an adjustment of the back-to-back and journal bearing inspection interval for all 7000 Series cars from after every four consecutive service days to every seven days.

The mitigations in the revised plan reflect currently known data including that wheel migration has been identified on more than 80 7000 Series axles since 2017 (including through the current inspection procedure); that those trains in passenger use under Metrorail’s May 19 and subsequent Return to Service Plans to this point were selected from a specific group of 7000 Series cars; that Metrorail has generally not run cars with low press tonnage axles in non-passenger service to any significant degree for the last six months; that available information continues to suggest there are multiple contributing factors to this wheel migration on 7000 Series cars, including factors that could differ across similar elements of the Metrorail system; and that wheel migration remains under investigation.

Metrorail will continue adjustments that have been made to referenced documents, training, and inspection-related systems that reflect lessons learned and implementation challenges that have been identified due to the WMSC’s ongoing oversight.