As 2020 approaches, the owners, builders and future operators of Phase 2 of the Silver Line from the Wiehle-Reston East Station to Ashburn Station are working to ensure construction completion so that commuters by this time next year can be riding the trains.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s Dulles Corridor Rail Project Vice President Charles Stark has a goal to have the project ready for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to take over next summer.
Today, finishing touches are taking place at all five stations and support facilities. Construction of a windscreen at the Dulles Airport Station is taking place. Art in Transit exhibits are being installed.
But there is still a lot of work to be done and challenges to be met.
There are months of different kinds of tests still to be done. This will require close cooperation between the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, WMATA and both contractors: Capital Rail Constructors (CRC), led by Clark Construction, which is building rail system; and Hensel Phelps, builders of a 90-acre rail yard on Dulles Airport property. WMATA says the completion of the yard is essential to its taking over the project.
Meanwhile, WMATA and the Airports Authority are working to complete testing operations. Those tests require WMATA to loan some of its rail cars to the project.
The Airports Authority continues to work on several issues on the rail line itself construction itself.
At this point, all of the parties involved continue to respond to several issues including special track work, ballast deficiencies and concrete panels.
For example, there are issues with the long-term durability of the precast panels at the five at-grade stations. Responding to problems with water/cement ratios, low air content and insufficient covering of rebar in the panels, CRC has applied protective coats to the panel that were affected. Final acceptance of latest results and completion of a plan to test and reapply coatings over the next 100 years are forthcoming.
Project officials had consistently said these concrete problems are not a safety issue.
A major challenge facing all involved is the tie-in of the Phase 2 system to the existing rail system. This work in now taking place at the Wiehle-Reston East Station and it has caused some service disruptions on weekends at that station.
Mother Nature is the wild card as work through the cold winter months can readily be slowed by temperatures too low for paving and other work.
On the bright side, the different parties meet frequently to address outstanding issues on a timely basis.
Project officials say the goal has always been to build the safest and most durable rail system possible. And, they frequently insist that the schedule – and the pressure—to open the line is secondary to safety and quality.