The 11.4-mile extension of the Silver Line is still eying a summer completion date, but an exact date remains elusive.
At a meeting earlier today (Thursday), the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Safety and Operations Committee did not provide a specific date for the completion of the $2.8 billion project.
Instead, members noted that cooperative agreements do not call for a specific date. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) is currently negotiating the period between substantial completion — which it completed in November — and Operational Readiness (OR).
Andrew Off, WMATA’s executive vice president of capital delivery, said that Metro’s general manager will officially determine an Operational Readiness Date (ORD) once OR testing is completed.
Because of the fluid nature of testing and issues that may arise as testing and certification continues, MWAA cannot provide a target opening date. Once the ORD is determined, Metro will formally accept the project from MWAA.
WMATA expects that a 90-day period of pre-revenue activities will then commence.
“There is no defined time period between substantial completion and operational readiness,” Off said, adding that the date of operation is “all condition based.”
Metro’s punch list of the main line and station — known as Package A — is 80% complete. Package B — which covers the Dulles Yard — is 95% complete and has been “stagnant” for several weeks, Off said. Remaining items include contract safety certification and certificates of occupancy that are needed for employees.
Joe Leder, WMATA’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said 400 new employees have been hired for the extension project. Another 20 are expected to be hired by the end of the month.
Dulles District Supervisor Matthew Letourneu noted that the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission — which oversees and enforces safety practice of the rail system — must also complete its own safety enforcement measures, including a safety certification process.
“There’s obviously increasing interest in having this up and running,” Letourneu said.
He clarified with staff that WMSC’s reports should not produce additional delays or surprises because the commission is coordinating closely with Metro.
“As a result of this process, there shouldn’t be surprises from the WMSC that come kind of at the last minute because it’s been iterative,” he said.
(Updated on March 3 to add additional quote) The long-delayed 11.4-mile Silver Line extension to Dulles International Airport and into Loudoun County will not open until this summer.
Last month, the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority (MWAA) maintained that trains would run this spring, but at a Tuesday meeting with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, transportation officials said they anticipate a summer 2022 opening.
“We believe that early summer is a good time to start thinking about some of the activities related to opening,” said Martha Coello, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation’s Special Projects Division chief. “Obviously we need to get through the testing they are trying to narrow down what’s needed for operational readiness for WMATA to declare that and obviously we want to make sure there is enough time for WMATA to complete their pre-revenue activities.”
County supervisors said they were exasperated by delays in the opening of the $2.8 billion project. There will be six new stations, from Reston Town Center into Ashburn.
Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said he was concerned that officials could not provide an opening date, pointing to what he said was poor project management.
“It’s inconceivable that a $3 billion project does not have a schedule showing a projected completion date that the activities that have to be accomplished [by] to achieve that completion date,” Foust said.
FCDOT Director Tom Biesiadny noted that opening day will depend how quickly testing is completed.
“The tactic has been a little bit different this time to speak in generalities and not to put a specific date out there,” Biesiadny said, noting that the project has already repeatedly missed completion deadlines.
Once it finishes conducting its testing, MWAA will hand over the project over to Metro. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) board of directors will set a formal opening date once it determines it is operationally prepared to handle the opening.
MWAA is still conducting operational readiness testing through simulated service. Pre-revenue activities will follow once operational readiness is achieved, including warranty management, policy and procedure updates, and asset inventory. That process could take up to 90 days.
An issue related to heat tape deficiency — which prevents ice buildup on the rail when it rains or snows — remains unresolved, and roughly 74% of testing for tracks, stations and system is still pending. Hiring and training is already underway.
The county has begun planning with WMATA for opening ceremonies. The county board also approved an updated bus service plan on Feb. 22 that was created with the new rail service in mind.
Construction on a new sidewalk on Sunrise Valley near Reston Parkway is expected to begin this spring. The county also plans to remove a bus bay at Wiehle Avenue.
“We are at the mercy of WMATA now,” Hunter Mill District Suprvisor Walter Alcorn said.
As phase two of the Silver Line nears completion, Fairfax County is adapting other transportation options to accommodate the new service.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a proposal yesterday (Tuesday) to update Fairfax Connector bus routes in Reston and Herndon. The changes will maximize efficiency and the number of riders, according to board chair Jeff McKay.
County staff combed through more than 1,700 comments about the bus plan, which was developed in three rounds before and during the pandemic. Michael Felschow, who runs the planning division of the county’s transit services division, told the board that staff read through all comments and attempted to make changes as necessary.
“This is a pretty significant redo of many of the routes in the Reston and Herndon area,” said Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, noting that the county discovered the service was being used to get around Reston and Herndon, not just to and from Metro.
Under the plan, the county added four new routes, altered 19 existing bus routes, and eliminated 12 bus routes.
Here are the new routes:
- 615 Fair Oaks Hospital – Greenbriar – Fair Oaks Mall: Serving as a connection between Fair Oaks Hospital and Fair Oaks Mall, the route offers Restonians more connections to Fair Oaks.
- 901 Herndon Metrorail Station – Centreville: The route is intended to improve connectivity between Herndon, Centreville and Chantilly.
- 921 Herndon Circulator: This route serves as a loop through the town, connecting downtown Herndon and historical areas to the Herndon Metrorail Station. It also serves Parcher Avenue, Spring Street and Van Buren Street, which are not currently served by public transit.
- 954 Sterling Plaza – Herndon Metrorail Station: All-day service is provided between Sterling Plaza and the Herndon Metrorail Station. More connections are also offered along Herndon Parkway and Crestview Drive.
The county’s website offers a full breakdown, including the justification for the changes.
The changes will go into effect when the new Silver Line stations open. A firm opening date for the long-delayed Silver Line expansion has not yet been set. Officials estimate that trains could begin rolling in late spring.
The eliminated and modified routes are listed after the jump.