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The Herndon Metro station (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

With the Silver Line Phase II opening still in flux, Fairfax County is being asked to pay another $40 million.

At its transportation committee meeting on Friday (Sept. 30), the Board of Supervisors got an update on the ramifications of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) agreeing in July to increase the budget for the Silver Line extension by $250 million.

The original project agreement calls for Fairfax County to pay about 16% of the asked-for overage, so with the quarter of a billion dollar budget increase, the county owes an additional $40.25 million.

All told, the county will have spent nearly a billion dollars — $960 million — on the second phase of the Silver Line, which will add six stations from Reston to Ashburn in Loudoun County.

In total, the project has cost just over $3 billion. The board is set to vote on the payment later this month.

While likely to approve the additional payment, several supervisors expressed frustration and annoyance with the need to throw even more dollars at a project that has been besieged by constant delays.

“I don’t think it’s a shock and it’s a tiny portion of the overall project,” Chairman Jeff McKay said. “But [the extra $40 million] has rightly angered a lot of folks given all the delays.”

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust also made clear he was not happy that the county is being asked to pay more.

“Have we asked ourselves if this is a good deal and the Airports Authority is not just…spending a lot of money to make a problem go away? And it’s our money that they are spending,” Foust asked staff.

He also asked if $960 million will be the final amount. However, county staff couldn’t guarantee that there won’t be any further costs, considering Phase 1 is still undergoing repairs after opening in 2014.

“We still have to reconcile Phase 1 and Phase 2…All parties have to be reconciled at the end of the project,” said Martha Elena Coello, head of special projects for the Fairfax County Department of Transporation. “We are still doing some work on Phase 1 and that needs to be completed. At the end, there will be a reconciliation of both those phases.”

McKay asked, seemingly rhetorically, what would happen if the county didn’t pay the extra money. Staff responded that it might become a “legal matter” since the payment is required by the signed project agreement.

“According to the funding agreement, this is not a ‘might be’ or ‘may be,'” he said. “It’s a requirement for the county. We don’t have the flexibility…without significant negative consequences.”

Still relatively new Metro General Manager Randy Clarke was given authority by the Board of Directors last month to set an opening date for the Silver Line extension. While no exact date has been announced, Clarke said safety certifications are expected this October, and Metro has updated its maps to feature the new stations.

At the same time, Clarke warned that opening the Silver Line could force service reductions due to a deficit in trains when currently shuttered Blue and Yellow Line stations south of Washington National Airport reopen.

That headache will be put off a little longer by an entirely different Metro problem. Last week, the transit agency announced that its new Potomac Yard station won’t open until 2023.¬†As a result, the Yellow and Blue stations will be closed for another two weeks, until Nov. 5.

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The Fairfax County Department of Transportation advertises the coming opening of Metro’s Silver Line extension at the Mosaic District Fall Festival (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated at 9:40 a.m. on 9/30/2022) Metro’s extension of the Silver Line through Herndon into Loudoun County is finally starting to look like a reality, instead of a hypothetical, albeit expensive, project.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority unveiled new maps for its rail system last Friday (Sept. 23) that featured the six new stations, among other changes. A day earlier, its general manager got the go-ahead to set an opening date, though one has yet to be announced.

Coming six years after its initial projected opening of 2016, Silver Line Phase 2 will bring the D.C. region’s subway system into Loudoun for the first time, with stops at Dulles International Airport and Ashburn. Along the way, trains will pass through Reston Town Center, Herndon, and Innovation Center in the Dulles area.

Despite frustrations with the project’s many delays, Fairfax County officials remain hopeful that the rail line’s arrival will be a boon for residents and businesses in Reston and Herndon, fueling growth akin to what Tysons has seen since the Silver Line’s first phase opened there in 2014.

Are you excited to enter the shiny new Silver Line stations, potentially as soon as next month? Or have Metro’s ongoing safety and reliability issues turned you off of the transit system for now?

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A rendering of the proposed development outside the West Falls Church Metro station (via WMATA)

Metro anticipates reducing the parking capacity at its West Falls Church station by over 700 spaces in order to accommodate a planned redevelopment of the property between I-66 and Haycock Road.

Under review by Fairfax County, the project would replace the Metro station’s surface parking lots with 24 acres of mixed-use development, including up to 900 residential units, 110,000 square feet of office, and 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.

Working with private developers known collectively as FGCP-Metro LLC, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has proposed eliminating a south parking lot off of Falls Church Drive and reducing the number of bus bays and Kiss & Ride spots at the station.

“Proposed changes are intended to promote transit-oriented development, increase Metro ridership, enhance bicycle and pedestrian access to the station, and modernize transit facilities,” WMATA says.

Park and Ride

Taking out the south parking lot will reduce the station’s park-and-ride capacity from 2,009 to 1,350 spots, according to an environmental evaluation by the consultant WSP.

The evaluation found that demand had dropped from an average of 1,500 vehicles per day when the Silver Line opened in 2014 to 850 per day in 2017. Prior to the pandemic, the average rebounded to 950 in 2018 and 1,100 in 2019.

The West Falls Church Metro station’s existing parking lots (via Google Maps)

About 1,350 to 1,400 spaces are projected to be sufficient to meet parking demand through 2045, the report says. The station’s existing 1,200 garage will be retained, while construction on the office and multifamily residential buildings planned on the north parking lot won’t begin for another 10 years.

At that time, Metro will “reassess” whether to keep as parking or give the developers permission to redevelop it, on the condition that private garages for the new buildings include 150 to 200 spots for commuters.

“Several factors could affect commuter parking demand, including post-COVID changes in commuter travel patterns, the planned openings of Silver Line phase 2 and the I-66 toll lane project, and efforts by Metro to manage parking demand,” the evaluation says, noting that FGCP-Metro will construct approximately 700 parking spaces. Read More

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The latest map includes phase two of the Silver Line (via Metro)

Metro has officially debuted changes to its 2019 map of the rail system.

This past Friday (Sept. 23), Metrorail began rolling out the new maps — which feature the Silver Line extension and stations with new name — to its stations, trains and transit centers.

As first reported by DCist, the new map includes stations on phase two of the Silver Line: Reston Town Center, Herndon, Innovation Center, Washington Dulles International Airport, Loudoun Gateway and Ashburn.

The map also lists Potomac Yard station in Alexandria as a future station.

But it will take some time before the whole system’s maps are upgraded. The overall system has more than 5,000 maps in stations and trains alone.

“Metro is getting a head start now for what will take more than a month to replace every map in the system in preparation for opening,” the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority said.

The map also includes new station names — which were approved by Metro’s Board of Directors — changing Largo Town Center to Downtown Largo, Prince George’s Plaza to Hyattsville Crossing, White Flint to North Bethesda, and Tysons Corner to Tysons. West Falls Church-VT is also the new name of the station that used to bear the University of Virginia’s name.

Here’s more from Metro on the changes:

The map’s original design was created more than 40 years ago by graphic designer Lance Wyman and was revised by Wyman for the opening of the first phase of the Silver Line and the extensions’ completion. Over the decades, millions of people have navigated Metrorail using the simple but classic map showing all six rail lines – Red, Blue, Orange, Silver, Green and Yellow – crossing the region with crisp, clean lines.

Printing has been underway for weeks, as Metro prepares for the opening of the Silver Line extension. Maps of various sizes, fare tables, and customer brochures are all being updated.

Metro has not yet decided when the Silver Line extension will officially open. But its Board of Directors took a key step last Thursday (Sept. 22) when they delegated to Metro General Manager and CEO Randy Clarke the authority to accept the project once certain conditions are met.

Right now, a fall opening is anticipated.

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A date for service to begin on the Silver Line’s second phase is likely planned for the fall (Staff photo by Jay Westcott).

After years of delays, Metro has officially passed the baton over to its general manager to set an opening date for phase two of the Silver Line.

At a board meeting today (Thursday), Metro’s Board of Directors unanimously approved a motion to have General Manager Randy Clarke set the opening date of the project.

“This is obviously a very important step and a lot is on the line,” said board chairman Paul Smedberg.

The move would set into motion the 11.4-mile project, which adds six new stations from Reston to Ashburn to the overall Silver Line.

While no actual date was announced, Clarke expects to receive safety certifications by next month. Test runs simulating service on the new line are scheduled to start in early October.

However, safety concerns that have sidelined dozens of trains since October could pose a challenge.

If efforts to restore the trains are further delayed, Clarke says it could force Metro to either reduce service when shuttered Blue Line stations reopen next month or push back the Silver Line opening, per WAMU/DCist transportation reporter Jordan Pascale.

Handed to Metro in late June, the second phase of the Silver Line has been in the works under the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority for almost a decade now, encountering numerous delays that have frustrated local residents, business owners, and elected officials.

The new stations are located at Reston Town Center, Herndon, Innovation Center, Dulles International Airport, Loudoun Gateway and the terminus at Ashburn. The project also includes a new Dulles Rail Yard designed for 168 Metrorail cars.

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Huntington Metro station (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

Shuttles, increased capacity, and an extension of the Blue Line are among the changes Metro will make to help riders when the Yellow Line shuts down this weekend, a closure that will last eight months.

Starting this Saturday (Sept. 10), the Yellow Line bridge and tunnels will close until May 2023 for long-overdue repair work. Construction will also be done to connect the new Potomac Yard station to the main rail system so that station can open this fall.

Both projects will result in a months-long shutdown of the Yellow Line, which runs through Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax County. Parts of the Blue Line will also be closed through Oct. 22.

While this will undoubtedly inconvenience many local riders, Metro hopes to mitigate the impact of the construction and shutdown, which will happen in two phases.

During the first phase, which begins Saturday (Sept. 10) and lasts through Oct. 22, all six Blue and Yellow Line stations south of Reagan National Airport will be closed, as the Potomac Yard construction is completed. Those stations include Braddock Road, King Street, Van Dorn Street, Franconia-Springfield, Eisenhower Avenue, and Huntington.

Metro will offer seven free shuttles will be offered during this time. Options include local, express, and limited-stop shuttles that cross the Potomac River.

The local shuttles will stop at all Metro stations and be available during all Metrorail operating hours.

  • Blue Line Local: Between Franconia, Van Dorn Street, King Street, Braddock Road, and National Airport stations every 10-20 minutes
  • Yellow Line Local: Between Huntington, Eisenhower Avenue, King Street, Braddock Road, and Crystal City stations every 10-15 minutes.

Express shuttles, which will stop at the Pentagon and at the end of each line, will be available from 4:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays, and from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends.

  • Blue Line Express: Franconia-Pentagon Express service between Franconia and Pentagon stations every six minutes.
  • Yellow Line Express: Huntington-Pentagon Express service between Huntington and Pentagon stations every six minutes.

Limited shuttles, which will take riders into D.C., will be available during weekday rush hours only.

  • VA-DC Shuttle 1: Between Crystal City, Pentagon City, Smithsonian, and L’Enfant Plaza stations every 12 minutes
  • VA-DC Shuttle 2: Between Pentagon, Smithsonian, and Archives stations every 12 minutes.
  • VA-DC Shuttle 3 (former 11Y route): Between Mt. Vernon, Alexandria, and Potomac Park stations every 20 minutes. Peak direction service only.

Metro will increase capacity on the other lines by shortening wait times and increasing the length of railcars. Read More

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Phase two of the long-awaited Silver Line is likely slated for a late fall opening.

At a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board meeting today (Thursday), efforts are underway to complete safety and certification requirements, according to Theresa Impastato, WMATA’s executive vice president and chief safety officer.

But an exact date remains uncertain. Metro’s board will set the date for servicing the 11.4-mile extension into Loudoun County. It’s unlikely service will begin until late October, especially since simulated service that is expected to continue through mid-October.

“I know everyone in the community is dying to hear,” said WMATA’s CEO Randy Clarke, adding that the organization is entering the “red zone” towards announcing a date.

With nearly all hiring completed, onsite training is planned by September 11. Simulated service will take place between October 3 and 17, according to Lynn Bowersox, WMATA’s senior vice president.

The second phase of the Silver Line has been in the works under the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority for almost a decade now, encountering numerous delays that have frustrated local residents, business owners, and elected officials.

The Washington Metrorail Safety Commission will then approve a safety certification when the materials are submitted in the middle of October — one of the 10 conditions of acceptance of the project.

Metro’s board will then set a date for service.

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Closed sign (via Tim Mossholder/Unsplash)

Labor Day weekend is upon us, heralding the imminent return of pumpkin spice lattes and everything fall.

Fairfax County government offices will be closed in honor of the holiday, but some facilities will remain open. 

Government

Government offices for Fairfax County, Fairfax City, and the towns of Herndon and Vienna will be closed on Monday, although some facilities may remain open.

Fairfax County Public Schools will also observe the holiday. All libraries will also be closed.

Trash and recycling 

Fairfax County advises residents to contact their trash and recycling collector directly for any service schedule changes due to the holiday.

Transportation 

Metrorail, Metrobus, and MetroAccess will operate on a Sunday schedule. Because of the holiday, customers will benefit from off-peak fares, and parking will be free all day. 

There’s also another reason to celebrate: Labor Day is the last day of closures at five Orange Line stations.

Fairfax Connector will operate on a Sunday schedule.

Courts

The county’s circuit and general district courts will be closed due to the holiday. Juvenile and domestic relations courts will also be closed.

Recreation

All recreational centers will be open for regular hours with the exception of the George Washington Rec Center, which is closed for the day.

All historic sites will be closed, alongside county-run nature centers. Frying Pan Farm Park is open, but its visitors center is closed. Green Spring Gardens will be closed to the public.

Photo via Tim Mossholder/Unsplash

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A new free shuttle service is coming to Reston Town Center (courtesy Reston Town Center Association)

A new free shuttle service is coming soon to Reston Town Center to connect the RTC Metro Station to Reston’s urban core.

LinkRTC, the new, privately-funded shuttle service managed by the Reston Town Center Association, is expected to begin operation on weekdays when the station opens in the fall. Six stops are planned for the internal shuttle, which will provide free service from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays. 

RTCA Executive Director Robert Goudie said the shuttle is intended to connect the area’s residents, workforce and visitors to a network of restaurant, retail, workplaces and programming.¬†

“The town center continues to grow as a dynamic, regional destination,” Goudie wrote in a statement. “We see linkRTC as an important community amenity that will link the downtown with Metro.¬†

Reston Limousine and Travel Service, a local transportation company, will operate two 14-passenger vans that will run with 10-minute intervals between service at each stop. The company has more than 250 vehicles.

The vans are ADA-compliant and include two wheelchair-accessible seating places. Properties within RTCA that opt in will pay for the service under a cost-sharing agreement. 

As we explored this with our major property holders, it became clear that a sensible first phase would be rolling this out within the extended urban core,” Goudie told FFXnow. “Once we launch, other properties that might wish to have a stop and be a part of the funding solution can contact us about the possibility of opting in. It may be a service we can voluntarily grow over time.”

Goudie anticipates expanding the program throughout the town center in the years ahead. 

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn says the shuttle will help bolster Fairfax County’s vision of ensuring that development allows people to get to transit easy.¬†

“This supports Fairfax County’s investment in Metrorail, provides another multi-modal option to the growing Reston Town Center, and creates another alternative to single occupancy private vehicles in the heart of Reston. These are things that everyone in our community should support,” Alcorn wrote in a statement.¬†

RTCA is the governing association for RTC.

Signs will be posted at each stop. An app will also be available for riders.

The shuttle has been in the works for years. The county’s latest comprehensive plan for Reston contemplates the inclusion of a shuttle or circulator service to knit the town center with Metro.¬†

RTCA will launch the service once trains begin running at the station, possibly in October of this year, after years of delays.

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Morning Notes

Sun shines through tree leaves in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Man Dies After Fairfax City Crash — “A 32-year-old Maryland man died from injuries he received when the motorcycle he was riding Monday afternoon collided with an SUV on Chain Bridge Road in Fairfax City, according to a police release.” [Patch]

Suspect in Fatal Springfield Stabbing Extradited — “This evening, Jose Heber Hernandez Mejia was extradited back to Fairfax County from South Carolina. He’s charged with 2nd degree murder for the July 17 domestic-related stabbing in the 5200 block of Rolling Rd. Hernandez Mejia was held on no bond.” [FCPD/Twitter]

Arrests Made in Child Solicitation Sting — “Six men ranging in ages from 26 to 43 were arrested by Fairfax County Police as part of an online sting to identify and apprehend predators seeking to exploit children using the internet, according to a police brief.” [Patch]

Food Stolen From Mount Vernon Daycare — “Officers were called to the KinderCare at 4287 Buckman Road early Monday morning for a burglary that occurred over the weekend. When officers learned thousands of dollars worth of food was stolen from the center, they quickly jumped into action to ensure the kids wouldn’t go hungry by purchasing breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snacks.” [FCPD/Facebook]

Virginia Sees Bump in Pro-Choice License Plates — “Pro-life and pro-choice license plates aren’t new to Virginia: The commonwealth has issued ‘Choose Life’ plates since 2009 and ‘Trust Women. Respect Choice.’ since 2010…Since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, though, more people are buying pro-choice plates.” [Washingtonian]

Fire Department Enlists Starbucks for Backpack Drive — “#FCFRD is partnering with select local @Starbucks stores to collect backpacks for underprivileged children. Backpacks will be given to local schools in #FairfaxCounty for distribution. Backpacks will be collected until August 12. Please donate a new backpack today!” [FCFRD/Twitter]

Metro Seeks to Add More Trains — Metro is seeking permission to operate more of the 7000-series trains that were sidelined late last year after a derailment in Arlington, according to the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission. The transit agency is currently permitted to run 64 cars, or eight trains, per day, as long as their wheels are inspected daily. [The Washington Post]

State Legislators Consider Changes to Recall Process — “Activists in Virginia are increasingly turning to the state’s court-driven recall process to try to take out their frustrations on local officials they feel have done something wrong…The fact that the recalls almost never work doesn’t seem to be stopping the trend, but it’s causing some lawmakers to rethink a system that empowers judges, not voters, to decide when politicians deserve to be kicked out of office early.” [Virginia Mercury/Inside NoVA]

“American Idol” Winner to Take Wolf Trap Stage — “Her victory on Season 3 of ‘American Idol’ made her a household name. Now, Fantasia Barrino is bringing her signature sound to Wolf Trap in Virginia on Aug. 19.” [WTOP]

It’s Wednesday — Rain starting in the afternoon. High of 88 and low of 77. Sunrise at 6:19 am and sunset at 8:11 pm. [Weather.gov]

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