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Additional Delays Slow Handover of Silver Line to Metro

Performance issues and unmet safety testing requirements cited as reasons for the continued delay.

A rendering of the Dulles Airport station to be built in Phase II.

A rendering of the Dulles Airport station to be built in Phase II. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority

Phase I of the Silver Line is still not quite ready for final testing by Metro authorities, according to a Monday statement issued by Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority (MWAA). With the handover of the Silver Line project to Metro authorities looming, Northern Virginia residents will have to be patient despite their readiness to hop on the train at new Tysons Corner and Reston Metro stations.

The Monday afternoon release stated that seven of 12 key criteria had not been met by Dulles Transit Partners (DTP), who submitted their notice of “substantial completion” to MWAA on Feb. 7. Unmet categories included missing certificates of occupancy for stations and tunnel facilities, elevator and escalator problems, water leaks, and incomplete documentation for testing and security verifications. Most notably, the release reported performance issues with the Automatic Train Control System for the train, which -- until resolved -- will prevent Metro from beginning full operational testing.

There are no current penalties being assessed toward DTP as of Feb. 24, according to MWAA spokesperson Marcia McAllister. MWAA is still putting together a timeframe for how long it will take before Phase I testing can be handed over to Metro.

“The Airports Authority has instructed DTP to provide a plan and date of conclusion for addressing the outstanding items as quickly as possible. We will work closely with DTP, WMATA and our other partners to monitor progress and assure that all contractual obligations are satisfied,” said the statement issued by MWAA.

Del. Ken Plum (D-36) said that he hoped the delays would not last longer than a few weeks and remained optimistic about the Silver Line’s progress. “I share the same anticipation as everyone else for the opening, but as projects of this size go, it’s pretty close to schedule,” said Plum.

Mark Ingrao, President and CEO of the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, expressed similar views about the delay. “When you have a project this large there are going to be unanticipated delays. As long as when they open it it's open for good, we will be happy,” said Ingrao.

On Tuesday, Feb. 18, MWAA Project Director Charles S. Carnaggio, P.E., presented the latest progress of Phase I at a luncheon in Herndon. In addition to showing the various stages of completion of each station from 2009 up to Feb. 2014, Carnaggio pointed out signs of budding economic development and provided a closer look at planning for Phase II construction.

“This is a tremendous success not only for this area but for the nation. Everyone is looking in at this project,” said Carnaggio to a room of development and contracting industry employees. Carnaggio, an engineer who has worked on the project for over ten years, pointed out that the planned 23-mile extension edging out to Loudoun County will increase the size of the Metro system by 25 percent, a nearly unparalleled increase in size in American transit systems.

In addition to five new Metro stations in Tysons Corner and Reston, Phase I contractor Dulles Transit Partners also built a redesigned West Falls Church station with a new inspections facility and sound box, as well as a parking garage at Wiehle-Reston Station.

Speaking on potential risks in handing the system over for final testing, Carnaggio expressed the importance of creating a “safe and reliable system.”

“During Phase I our job was to do our due diligence and make sure that the contractor built a safe and reliable system,” said Carnaggio. “In Phase II, it’s just as important to get off to a good start. We’ve got some good partners, and that’s our expectation.”

Just as DTP, a partnership between developers Bechtel and URS, was put in charge of Phase I construction, Capital Rail Constructors, composed of Clark Contruction Group and Kiewit Infrastructure South, will be responsible for the next 12 miles of rail in Phase II.

Capital Rail’s assigned task list includes six more stations, beginning at Reston Town Center and ending at Route 772 in Loudoun County. Along with those new stops, the contractor is also tasked with procuring five new parking garages and a railyard and maintenance facility built from the ground up at Dulles Airport.

In Dec. 2013, MWAA began geotechnical work near Dulles Airport that involves using soil boring equipment to test the ground as deep as 30 feet below the earth, according to Carnaggio. More than 1,300 boring tests will be completed in western Fairfax and Loudoun counties before Phase II construction begins.

Though Herndon and Reston residents are clearly anxious for their brand new Metro stations, it’s easy to forget that all parts of Northern Virginia will be affected by the arrival of the Silver Line.

“I’m very excited about the Metro coming out West,” said Katie Rundquist, a Purcellville resident who works for contractor Hensel Phelphs, prior to Carnaggio’s presentation Tuesday. “Living in Purcellville we don’t have many transportation options other than the Loudoun County Connector, so this will make getting into D.C. a little bit easier.”