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Yellow Line tunnel and bridge over the Potomac River (via WMATA)

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and other Northern Virginia officials are looking for ways to help commuters during a lengthy planned shutdown of Metro’s Yellow Line for rehabilitation work.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority will stop service on a key section of the line for seven to eight months to repair a Yellow Line bridge over the Potomac River and tunnels that are over 40 years old.

The project is scheduled to start in September and finish in the spring. The shutdown will be between the Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations.

“The seemingly endless stream of shutdowns, delays, and missed completion dates is making Fairfax County commuters increasingly frustrated and hampering Metro’s ability to rebound from pandemic ridership numbers,” Chairman Jeff McKay said during the board’s meeting yesterday (Tuesday).

The board agreed to write a letter urging WMATA to accelerate the project timeline and provide more alternatives for commuters, such as improved bus service and parking fare reductions at Yellow Line stations during construction.

McKay also encouraged Virginia Railway Express to play a “lead role in possibly providing relief in ways like fare incentives for Yellow Line riders.”

The work is occuring at the same time the new Potomac Yard Metro station is being connected to rail lines as part of a six-week project. The station is slated to open this fall, following delays.

McKay said that while safety must be the highest priority, he’s concerned about the effects of the shutdown, especially as people return to the workplace. Metro service has already been significantly reduced systemwide for months since a train derailed in Arlington County in October.

“WMATA needs to find a way to shorten that timeframe and do a better job of at least getting our commuters through that bottleneck, which is frankly, for us, Alexandria,” Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said.

The Mount Vernon District borders the City of Alexandria and includes the Huntington Metro station at the end of the Yellow Line.

“That’s not a criticism of Alexandria,” Storck added. “It’s just the amount of people that’s going to go through it is even more than in the past.”

WMATA spokesperson Sherri Ly said the authority is working with its regional partners, businesses and the community to create a mitigation plan, including bus service enhancements and changes to parking policy for the project’s duration.

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An exact opening date for the Silver Line extension project has not yet been determined (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

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.”

That date has already been delayed several times, resulting in some consternation and frustration from county officials.

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.

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