Just three years after going a full season without Metro, Fairfax County’s Orange Line stations will again be subjected to an extended summer shutdown, as the transit agency works to upgrade some of its equipment.
As part of a larger maintenance work plan, the Vienna, Dunn Loring and West Falls Church stations will be closed from June 3 to July 27 so Metro can replace a steel rail that has degraded, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Agency announced yesterday (Tuesday).
The replacement will unfold in two phases “to reduce the customer impact,” according to Metro. During the first phase from June 3-26, the closure will also include the McLean, East Falls Church and Ballston stations on the Silver Line. Those stations will reopen on June 27.
“The Infrastructure team will focus on replacing 40-year-old steel rail that has become significantly more susceptible to rail breaks than rail in any other part of the system,” WMATA said. “Metro has been tracking rail breaks in the system to identify priority locations for replacement and has determined the rail in this stretch of track to be a top priority.”
The work will also include a replacement of the copper cables at the stations with fiber-optic cables, giving them “advanced radio, signal, and train communication technology.”
Metro typically schedules its major maintenance projects during the summer when there’s lower ridership, according to the news release.
This year’s plan is focused on modernizing the rail system. It will also involve single-tracking on the Maryland end of the Orange Line from May 12 to 22 and a 44-day shutdown of the Maryland end of the Green Line from July 22 to Sept. 4.
“Continued maintenance work is essential to safe and reliable rail service,” WMATA Executive Vice President of Infrastructure Andy Off said in a statement. “We are working strategically to target maintenance locations and minimize the impacts on customers as we conduct this critical work to upgrade systems, improve reliability, and modernize station facilities.”
This summer’s partial Orange Line shutdown won’t be as extensive as the three-month-long closure of 2020, when Metro overhauled the station platforms.
When ridership plummeted that spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency expanded the closure to include the Silver Line between Ballston and Wiehle-Reston East so that it could connect those stations to the upcoming extension into Loudoun County.
The Silver Line stations ultimately reopened that August, followed by the Orange Line stations just after Labor Day. Even with the unexpected leeway for construction in 2020, the Silver Line extension still encountered several delays before finally launching service last November.
According to its online rail data, the Vienna Metro station is averaging the most daily rail entries out of the four Fairfax County stations that will be affected this summer, as of November:
- Vienna — 8,794 entries
- West Falls Church — 4,674 entries
- Dunn Loring — 3,543 entries
- McLean — 928 entries
In a quarterly report last fall, WMATA reported its highest ridership levels since the pandemic took hold in March 2020, though the 45.6 million riders across rail and bus was still just 60% of 2019 levels.
Fairfax Connector will continue providing express bus service to Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts for at least the next five years, but the point of origin will be different from years past.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors authorized Director of Transportation Tom Biesiadny on Tuesday (May 10) to extend the county’s license agreement for the Wolf Trap Express shuttle with the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, the nonprofit that organizes the park’s programming.
Set to launch on May 28, the shuttle will transport passengers between the McLean Metro station in Tysons and Wolf Trap’s Filene Center, which will kick off its summer 2022 season that day with a lineup of go-go bands headlined by Big Tony and Trouble Funk.
The shuttle will only operate during Filene Center performances, leaving the McLean Metro at approximately 20-minute intervals starting two hours before each show until showtime.
Return trips will leave Wolf Trap 20 minutes after each show, but they will be available no later than 10:45 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday or 11:20 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Fairfax Connector presents bus service to and from the Filene Center.
•New: Pickup at McLean Metro Station
•Cost: $5 Cash or SmarTrip Card, $3 SmarTrip Rail to Bus Transferhttps://t.co/79SbC8q6xu@Wolf_Trap pic.twitter.com/NvEu2MFE1J
— Fairfax Connector (@ffxconnector) May 9, 2022
Fairfax Connector previously ran the Wolf Trap Express service from the West Falls Church Metro station. It shifted to the McLean station, because it’s easier to access and shortens the travel time for buses, making it more convenient, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation says.
FCDOT spokesperson Robin Geiger notes that the new location will also save travelers from Reston and the western part of the county from having to transfer between Metro’s Silver and Orange lines.
Rail service on the Orange Line will be disrupted this summer, with five stations closing in D.C. for platform renovations. In addition, the county anticipates more passengers using the Silver Line in the future, assuming its second phase ever opens.
“I’m excited for Wolf Trap to be back in full force this year,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said.
According to county staff notes, Fairfax Connector has provided shuttle service for Filene Center performances since 2009. Originally signed on April 20, 2009, the agreement has been extended twice before, in 2010 and 2015.
The latest extension will keep the agreement in place until May 31, 2027.