The second phase will begin service four years late after political infighting and numerous setbacks, including problems with faulty construction materials. The opening date was announced days after a final dispute — a dispute between Metro and its regulator that threatened further delays but eventually led the transit agency to launch its service in time to serve airport passengers ahead of Thanksgiving trips. Thank you.
Metro is still working to obtain the necessary safety certification from its regulator to operate passenger service on the extension. But its leaders felt confident enough that they will soon have it to announce the news in a video posted on social media, which featured several transit workers saying, “We’re ready to welcome you aboard the Silver Line.”
Customers visiting the new stations — Reston Town Center, Herndon, Innovation Center, Dulles Airport, Loudoun Gateway and Ashburn — will be greeted by Metro workers handing out commemorative flags, a tradition that began when the first station opened in 1976.
Officials in Loudoun County, one of the fastest-growing areas in the country, say the expansion will further transform the suburb 25 miles from Washington into a destination for tourists and relocation companies.
“The subway will allow citizens throughout the Washington Capitol area to explore and experience all the amenities and recreational opportunities Loudoun has to offer,” said County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large). Loudoun in a statement. “Finally, Metro provides a transit option so federal government employees and others can leave the car at home and not face heavy commuter traffic.”
Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles), a Metro board member and Loudoun County supervisor who voted to bring the connection to the county a decade ago, said, “With that will come opportunities to diversify our economy and provide new options to residents and travelers.”
The start of passenger service on the extension will mark the end of the 23-mile Silver Line, which was first opened in 2009 and opened five years later. The second phase began construction in 2014 and was initially slated to open in 2018, but suffered months of delays. The $3 billion project has been stalled by changes in stormwater management requirements, falsified tests of problematic concrete panels, a related $1 million settlement, the conviction of a subcontractor’s former manager on a wire fraud charge and a work stoppage due to cracks in the concrete beams supporting elevated tracks near the Dulles Airport station.
Fairfax County officials, long frustrated by project delays, reacted to the announcement with relief and elation.
“It’s certainly been a journey to get to this point, not always straight lines, but here we are finally at the finish line,” Jeffrey C. McKay (D), chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, said in a statement. . “Anyone familiar with this corridor knows the tremendous economic development that is taking place in anticipation of the opening.”
The opening, McKay said, comes at a crucial time for the region, which is still emerging from the pandemic, and for Metro, which faces an operating budget shortfall of nearly $150 million next year after hundreds of thousands of fare-paying travelers abandon public transport. for teleworking during the pandemic. Transit officials say the extension will bring in new riders who have moved into homes or businesses that have sprung up along the tracks.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority oversaw construction of the extension. With it complete, the agency will soon hand over full ownership to Metro, which has been running tests on the line for more than four months.
MWAA officials expressed satisfaction at finally opening a Metro stop in Dulles, which currently connects to Metrorail via bus service from the Wiehle-Reston Metro station. Travelers will have a five-minute walk from the airport station through an underground tunnel to baggage claim.
“The opening of Silver Line subway service will have a huge positive impact for Dulles International Airport, its passengers and the entire region,” said MWAA Executive Director Jack Potter. “It will bring to fruition a transportation vision decades in the making.”
WMATA General Manager Randy Clarke thanked the regional agencies that partnered on the project. For Metro, the expansion also includes a new maintenance and rail service yard on 90 acres on Dulles Airport grounds. The yard will be the largest in Metro, with about 700 employees.
The planned opening nearly became another delay when Clarke told Metro board members in October that Metro didn’t have enough trains to open the Silver Line or handle overcrowding from a recent surge of commuters returning to workplaces for the first time since the pandemic. it started Metro has been on a train shortage for a year due to the suspension of its 7000 series cars, which make up 60 percent of the transit system’s fleet.
The series was suspended after a federal derailment investigation discovered a defect that caused still-unexplained wheel movements in several of the cars. The commission has allowed the gradual return of 7000-series cars since the summer under a plan that included regular checks of the wheels to detect the defect, but Metro ridership has been increasing at a rate that transit officials say has exceeded the number of trains available. Safety commission officials declined requests to release the entire series, saying Metro had not convinced them it had a plan to operate all 748 cars safely.
The dispute went public on Oct. 19, leading to a joint meeting between the two agencies and Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia, both Democrats, who urged cooperation. Within days, Metro and the safety commission worked out a compromise that allowed Metro to operate many more cars and a path to recover all suspended cars under the parameters established by the commission.
“I’m very proud to have worked to achieve this,” Warner he tweeted on monday
Metro weighs fare hikes and rail improvements as it prepares for Silver Line
Still, not everything is over between the two agencies. To carry passengers on the extension, Metro needs the safety commission to certify that the Silver Line is safe to operate. Metro has not formally sought that approval. Transit officials said workers are finishing minor tasks this week, such as installing signs, but expect to submit their application for accreditation soon.
“Metro continues to work on a small list of items that we are coordinating daily with the [safety commission]”, the transit agency said in a statement. “We appreciate your cooperation and look forward to finalizing the safety certification before opening passenger service.”
Safety commission spokesman Max Smith said Metro and the safety commission have been discussing the last remaining issues. He said Metro did not consult with the safety commission before selecting Nov. 15 as the opening date.
“The opening date is up to them — obviously they have to have everything done by that date or that won’t be the date,” Smith said in a message.
As train shortages ease, subway and bus systems prepare for Silver Line
Regional bus transit systems, including the Fairfax Connector and Loudoun County Transit, have told Metro they need about three weeks to synchronize their services with rail stations. The agencies said they are confident the work, which includes erecting or modifying signs at bus stops, will be ready, mainly because most of it was finished before one of several tentative opening dates that have had to be scrapped over the years.
Lori Aratani contributed to this report.