Post Content
Reston Town Center Metro station, still closed (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Metro officials are aiming for an October opening of the phase two of the Silver Line, a long-delayed project that appears on track to go live this fall.

At a board meeting on Thursday (July 28), Metro’s new general manager Randy Clarke cautioned that a more specific timeline can’t be disclosed because the completion of the 11.4-mile project is dependent on work by other stakeholders, including a go-ahead from the Federal Transit Administration and the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission.

He hopes to have more details to share next month.

“We obviously have some work that we have to do,” Clarke said at the meeting, adding that safety is Metro’s top priority. 

Metro declared operational readiness in late June. Now, a number of items need to be handled, including training employees, simulating service, running through emergency preparedness drills, rail inspections, and wayfinding measures, Clarke said. 

“We are either running safe service or the service should not run,” he said.

As part of safety certifications, the FTA and WMSC will also give Metro the green light to proceed with rail service. That work is still underway, along with a safety and security certification by Metro’s Chief Security Officer.

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.

At the meeting, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn pressed Clarke for more details on the opening date. He emphasized that phase two must clear additional hurdles — including a go-ahead from the WMSC, which did not exist when the first phase opened.

“I don’t know if a lot of people recognize that,” Alcorn said, adding that residents and businesses are eager for rail service to begin soon.

Clarke said that Metro believes it is at “the confidence level” that all remaining work needed for safety certification will be completed by October.

“It’s important work,” he said. “…The team is incredibly focused on getting there.” 

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

Metro remains noncommittal on an expected opening date for when phase two of the Silver Line will begin operations.

The 11.4-mile extension from Reston into Loudoun County is expected to open this fall. However, the $2.8 billion project has repeatedly missed estimated targets for opening, leading the transit agency to take a cautious approach to sharing a timeline for when rail service will officially begin.

“We do not have an anticipated date at this time,” Metro spokesperson Ian Jannetta said.

That’s despite a report from NBC4 that attributes a Halloween target date for opening to multiple “sources.”

The news comes after the extension checked off a key milestone last week. The project was formally handed over to Metro on June 23 after achieving operational readiness.

At a board meeting, officials noted that significant work remains to be done.

“It means we’re progressing and getting to the point of passenger service, which we don’t expect to happen until later this fall,” said interim Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority General Manager and CEO Andy Off.

A spokesperson declined to comment further on the anticipated opening, noting that the next update is expected at the board’s meeting in late July.

Last summer, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority anticipated a possible completion by March 2022, but ongoing work on safety and testing pushed the “substantial completion” deadline deeper into the year.

Since then, Metro and other stakeholders remained mum about announcing a Silver Line Phase 2 timeline — even when county and regional elected officials pushed for ballpark estimates. The completion date is still years beyond what was initially anticipated when MWAA began courting proposals for the project.

0 Comments
The potential development area around the Herndon-Monroe Metro Station (via Town of Herndon)

The oncoming train of the Silver Line extension is spurring a major planning initiative within the Town of Herndon.

With the Herndon-Monroe Metro station expected to begin service in the fall, town officials have hired consultant firm Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill to determine paths for redevelopment and how to ensure the area surrounding the station is more transit-oriented.

Known as the Transit-related Growth (TRG) study, the project will set the parameters for redeveloping and refreshing the area with mixed projects, higher tensities, and urban design, according to Lisa Gilleran, the town’s director of community development.

The TRG area broadly covers parcels mostly north of Herndon Parkway from Haley M. Smith Park and extends southeast of Herndon Parkway to Fairfax County Parkway.

“Regarding when planning should occur at or near Metro Stations, as with most transit-oriented redevelopment, it is anticipated that the TRG will redevelop over a few decades,” Gilleran told FFXnow.

She noted that the pandemic delayed the initiation of the planning effort.

The study comes at the request of property owners within the TRG, who agreed in 2021 to pay up to $500,000 for a consultant to study and develop a small area plan to provide a conceptual vision for future development. The Herndon Town Council approved the agreement in October of 2021.

The plan is not expected to delve into the legal and policy issues of creating an affordable housing policy for the Town of Herndon, which currently has no such policy. But it will touch base on how a spectrum of housing could be incorporated into the TRG.

Efforts to prepare for the Silver Line extension have been ongoing since at least 2008. At the time, the town’s comprehensive plans switched the land use classification for non-residential areas around the Metro Station from service and industry to a more mixed-use focus.

Four years later, the town adopted another small area plan — the Herndon Metro Station Plan — for parcels on the south side of Herndon Parkway near the Metro Station, now known as the Herndon Transit-Oriented Core. In 2013, zoning regulations were guided by that planning effort.

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

(Updated at 9:25 a.m. on 6/28/2022) Metro has reached a major milestone with its Silver Line Phase 2 project.

The 11.4-mile rail extension from Reston into Loudoun County has achieved its “operational readiness date” and was formally handed over to Metro at 6 a.m. today (Thursday), interim Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority General Manager and CEO Andy Off announced during a board of directors meeting.

Off noted that Metro hasn’t technically accepted the project, as a number of steps remain to get it ready for passenger service. However, WMATA is now responsible for the rail line’s infrastructure and will start testing and training employees to familiarize them with the new facilities.

“This milestone enables our team to test the tracks and systems, train and familiarize our workforce on yard operations, mainline and stations and ensure that we provide safe and reliable service for customers on the extension,” Off said in a news release. “We look forward to opening the new stations soon and delivering high quality rail connections to Dulles Airport and Loudoun County.”

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.

Metro and Fairfax County transportation officials had suggested earlier this month that MWAA was finally almost ready to hand over the project, which will add six stations to the Silver Line from Reston Town Center to Ashburn.

Metro doesn’t expect passenger service to begin until “later this fall,” Off said. (Correction: This story previously said the time frame for the Silver Line extension’s opening was unclear.)

According to Off, it will take “a considerable amount of time” to train the 350 employees working at the new, 90-acre Dulles Airport rail yard facility, but the board of directors will be updated next month, and a launch date will be announced as the schedule gets refined.

“It is a major milestone, and we’re excited to get to this point finally,” said Matt Letourneau, a Virginia representative on the WMATA board.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, who chairs the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ transportation committee, expressed relief at the “long-awaited” news.

“Years of investment in infrastructure, development and economic opportunities will soon pay off for residents and businesses in Fairfax County and our neighboring jurisdictions,” Alcorn said in a statement. “We’re all looking forwarding to WMATA’s announcement of when we can open the gates to riders and get these trains rolling!”

Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine also released a joint statement on the announcement with their counterparts from Maryland, Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen:

Today’s news takes us one big step closer to our shared goal of ensuring that our transportation infrastructure is reliable, convenient, and capable of keeping up with the National Capital Region’s growth. We welcome this development and encourage WMATA to safely and expeditiously put the finishing touches on this project so the Silver Line can fully open for customer service.

The first phase of the Silver Line, which runs through Tysons to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station, opened in 2014.

0 Comments
Still waiting for Silver Line phase two… (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) Officials say it’s just a matter of weeks before the long-anticipated opening date of phase two of the Silver Line will be known.

At a Fairfax County transportation committee meeting yesterday (Tuesday), Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill said he expects to find out about a date for operational readiness within two weeks.

“If we don’t hear back as a board and as a region that operational readiness is not completed or available no more than two weeks from now, I would be very surprised,” Hill said at the meeting.

Still, it’s unclear exactly when that could be. Interim Metro Head Andy Off has previously stated that Metro expects to declare operational readiness within the “next several weeks.”

The 11.4-mile extension, which would bring six stations through Loudoun County, has been besieged with delays for years. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has remained tight-lipped about an expected opening date, which would be determined once operational readiness is formally declared.

Metro’s board will establish a service date after identified deficiencies are resolved to meet acceptance standards.

Martha Coello, who works with the Fairfax County Department of Transportation’s special projects division, said that the county’s portion of the punch list is 99% complete. The county just faces a small hang-up with a contractor that “won’t impact operational readiness or opening.”

Coello said discussions with stakeholders on opening days are ongoing. FCDOT is also seeking the board’s suggestions on how to best proceed with launch-day festivities. The project was substantially completed in November.

0 Comments
Reston Town Center Metro station, still awaiting opening (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Another logistical piece to formally open phase two of the Silver Line has been completed, but the opening date remains entirely unclear.

At meeting on Tuesday (May 24), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion to formally accept maintenance responsibilities of county-owned transit facilities related to the 11.4-mile Metrorail extension in Loudoun County.

“This is an important step as we move forward with phase two opening,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said.

But the vote didn’t bring any updates on an opening date for the long-anticipated project, which has already faced significant delays.

At the meeting, county transportation staff noted they hope to receive a schedule from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority soon.

Just as it did for the first phase of the Silver Line, the county formally adopted a maintenance and operations agreement.

The agreement includes property conveyances between different stakeholders, along with with maps covering ownership and maintenance responsibilities.

The county will own and maintain the Reston Town Center North and South Kiss and Ride lots and bus bays, the Herndon Station South stair tower and pedestrian bridge between the parking garage and the pavilion, and the Innovation North Kiss and Ride lot.

The county’s transportation department is working with MWAA to resolve several items related to this aspect of the project.

After brief hopes of a potential May opening, county officials acknowledged on the record in March that the extension had been delayed until the summer. MWAA has declined to provide a specific date or estimate.

“Metro has not set an opening date and will not do so until after operational readiness is declared,” said Metro spokesperson Ian Janetta in a May 11 statement to FFXnow.

0 Comments
Route 28 by the Frying Pan Road interchange (via Google Maps)

Trips on the Dulles Toll Road could get costlier next year.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority‘s Board of Directors is considering a plan to raise tolls by an average of nearly 25% on the main toll plaza and other ramps. Overall, a trip would cost $1.25 more than this year.

Rates could rise by 75 cents at the toll plaza and 50 cents on off ramps as part of an effort to partially fund the still-incomplete extension of the Silver Line, along with the operation, maintenance and improvement of the toll road.

Rate hikes could also become more periodic, with the same increase proposed every five years beginning next year. The only except is when a flat 75 cent increase is planned at all toll plazas in 2033. That means toll users could pay up to $7.75 at the main toll plaza and $4.75 at the ramp tolls by 2048.

Users currently pay $3.25 for the mainline toll plaza and $1.50 for ramp tolls.

If approved, the increase would be the first rate jump since 2019.

Public hearings are planned on July 18 and 21 before a final vote on the plan on Nov. 16. Rates would go into effect in 2023.

MWAA is also considering a plan to eliminate coin-drop baskets and bill customers without an EZ-Pass. Those users would be billed based on license plate identification, with additional fees tacked on to cover administrative costs.

Photo via Google Maps

0 Comments
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.

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Cherry blossoms seen from Tysons parking garage (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

New Issues Hamper Silver Line Phase 2 — While a summer opening is still possible, don’t expect the Silver Line extension from Reston into Loudoun County before July 1, Metro officials said yesterday (Thursday), citing waterproofing and insulation issues around power cable connections. Past problems with “the orange boot” have caused fire and smoke incidents. [DCist]

County Residents Report Lags in Rent Assistance — “Sarah Allen, regional director of Fairfax County Human Services, told InsideNoVa in October the county was rolling out a separate online portal that tenants could also use to apply for assistance. The online portal has yet to launch, according to a county spokesperson who said it’s still in development.” [Inside NoVA]

NoVA Faces Mental Health Services Deficit — “Last week, the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia published a report claiming that as of 2021 approximately 750,000 adults in Northern Virginia are currently receiving or want to receive mental health services. However, 350,000 of those adults who want therapy or counseling are unable to get it.” [Inside NoVA]

County Police and Firefighters Face Off for Charity — “The puck will drop on Friday at 6 p.m. at the SkateQuest ice rink in Reston as the Fairfax County Police Department takes on the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department in a charity hockey game…Donations will be accepted at the game and will go to RedHelp.org and BlueHelp.org.” [Patch]

Road Closure Planned in Clifton Next Week — “Kincheloe Road (Route 641) between Old Yates Ford Road (Route 612) and the Kincheloe Soccer Park will be closed to through traffic, weather permitting, Monday, March 28 and Tuesday, March 29 between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day to replace two culvert pipes.” [VDOT]

Park Authority Celebrates Women’s History Month — “The Fairfax County Park Authority has launched a new website celebrating the accomplishments and impact of extraordinary women who have shaped Fairfax County’s parks.” [FCPA]

Herndon Software Company Acquired — “Wavedancer Inc. (NASDAQ: WAVD), a Fairfax cybersecurity software company, said this week it has reached a deal to acquire Herndon’s Knowmadics, a software-as-a-service company specializing in the Internet of Things device management, for $90 million.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local Artists Partner for Capital One Hall Concert — The Virginia Chamber Orchestra, which now resides at the Tysons performing arts theater, will play music by Aaron Copland tomorrow (Saturday) in a joint concert with the College of William & Mary Symphony Orchestra. Artwork by members of the McLean Arts Society will be displayed in the Atrium. [Virginia Chamber Orchestra]

It’s Friday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 58 and low of 45. Sunrise at 7:05 a.m. and sunset at 7:27 p.m. [Weather.gov]

0 Comments
Still waiting for Silver Line Phase 2… (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A property tax paid by businesses in the Silver Line Phase 2 corridor has been helping to fund the infrastructure upgrades, even as delays have repeatedly stalled the Metrorail expansion.

The special tax has been 20 cents per $100 of assessed property value for nearly a decade and applies to commercial and industrial real estate. It can be used to pay up to $330 million of Fairfax County’s $527.3 million obligation for the project, which will extend the Silver Line from Reston to Ashburn.

As property values have dramatically increased over the last decade, the tax has brought in over $20 million annually in recent years. But an agreement with commercial and industrial property owners filed in 2009 locked in the current tax rate, according to the county.

“Per the terms of the petition for [fiscal year 2023], we can’t change the rate. So we’re going to have to keep it at 20 cents,” Fairfax County Debt Coordinator Joe LaHait said at an advisory meeting yesterday (Thursday). “And we’ve accrued quite a bit of cash — to the tune of almost about $66 million to date.”

The petition states the rate can’t exceed 20 cents per $100 of assessed property value as of the 2013 tax year and subsequent years before Metrorail service begins there.

County staff recommended keeping the rate the same for the upcoming year. The Phase 2 Dulles Rail Transportation Improvement District Advisory Board, which will meet March 29, will advise the Board of Supervisors in setting the rate.

While the tax rate can’t be changed just yet, the county is looking to reduce its debt, possibly paying off a loan in advance. The tax could be lowered in coming years before finally being phased out, possibly in the next decade or two.

Repeated delays have meant the Silver Line extension won’t open until this summer or later, but the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority must give the final OK. Testing is 74% complete with trains and stations, and a rail yard is 63% complete, the county said yesterday.

Overall, office vacancy rates jumped from the end of 2020 to the end of 2021, but nonresidential real estate values have increased after a prior year decrease, County Executive Bryan Hill noted last month in a budget presentation.

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list