Phase 2 of the Silver Line, which will extend Metrorail service from the Wiehle Reston East Station west to Ashburn, will be ready for transfer from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (Airports Authority) to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) this fall.
Charles Stark, an Airports Authority executive vice president and head of rail project, said he is confident that construction will be done around Labor Day and that the project will meet WMATA’s safety, reliability and durability criteria.
Readiness for transfer doesn’t mean WMATA will immediately take control or establish an opening date.
What happens next?
WMATA will then conduct what is called “operational readiness testing.” This step could take 90 days during which pre-revenue activities, such as training, additional testing, and asset management, take place to determine if the extension meets criteria to set at a revenue operation date.
At this point, that date is anticipated to be in February, but that date is subject to change depending on the Airports Authority’s final completion date and the results of complex testing.
WMATA chief Paul Wiedefeld says that agency recently approved its Fiscal 2022 budget, which includes funding for opening Phase 2 and all of its six stations: Reston Town Center, Herndon, Innovation Center, Loudoun Gateway (Old Ox Road) and Ashburn.
Barring unforeseen problems, Stark is confident that the team is in place to complete the project on this schedule.
He said the contractors building it “know what needs to be done.”
The Phase 2 mainline – the tracks including the aerial guideway at Dulles International Airport, all six stations and the associated electrical systems – is being built by Capital Rail Constructors, led by Clark Construction. Hensel-Phelps is the contractor building the Phase 2 rail yard and maintenance facility to support the entire regional rail system on more than 90 acres of Dulles Airport property.
Each contractor missed its respective contract completion date but is striving to be ready for a September turnover.
A major challenge to completion is finishing the connection of Phase 2 with Phase 1 just west of the Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail Station. So far, the project has needed to cancel service at that station to work on the connection. The Airports Authority is preparing to seek a final outage in late spring/early summer of this year.
As the fall date nears, the Airports Authority and WMATA will work together to resolve problems and the Airports Authority will press its contractors to make sure outstanding issues are resolved. Also, as testing continues the Airports Authority remains dependent on WMATA to supply trains for testing at times when those same trains are needed.
According to industry leaders, it is not unusual for a project of the magnitude to experience problems along the way. Many are discovered only as inspections intensify near completion.
There have been significant milestones in recent months.
The complex stormwater control system, which initially delayed the project start by a year, has been completed and not only controls flow but treats stormwater before releasing it into creeks and streams.
The huge 300-plus glass panel windscreen at Dulles Airport Station across Saarinen Circle from the Main Terminal is complete and will shield passengers on the station platform.
Dulles Airport Station sits atop an existing pedestrian tunnel connecting the station and Parking Garage 1 to the Main Terminal. The tunnel has moving sidewalks to ease pedestrian access to and from the terminal. An exhibit showcasing the history of the Dulles area is being prepared for display throughout the tunnel.