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Metro Silver Line on Track for Passengers

Margaret Summers | 5/29/2014, 8:53 a.m. | Updated on 6/4/2014, 3 p.m.
How do Northern Virginia and Greater Washington area commuters spell relief? S-i-l-v-e-r L-i-n-e.
An example of what the interior of the Silver Line Metro trains will look like when the line opens later this year is seen here. (Courtesy of WMATA)

How do Northern Virginia and Greater Washington area commuters spell relief? S-i-l-v-e-r L-i-n-e. The newest addition to the Metrorail system in 20 years will soon provide a breather from time consuming traffic jams both to and from Northern Virginia and D.C.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which has managed construction of the Silver Line, transferred control of the line’s first phase to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) on May 27.

“[It] allows us to move this project closer to opening day for our customers,” said Richard Sarles, Metro general manager and chief executive officer.

The transfer agreement gives the Airports Authority and Dulles Transit Partners, the construction consortium building the line, more time to finish their corrections and adjustments to the line while Metro conducts its drills and tests. “We expect that the Airports Authority will complete the remaining items in a timely fashion, thereby allowing us to open the line this summer,” Sarles said. The Metro Board of Directors will determine the exact opening date.

The May 27 transfer marked the Silver Line Phase 1 “Operation Readiness Date.” Metro has 90 days from that date to conduct tests and emergency drills on the line, and train its personnel in preparation for Silver Line riders.

The Silver Line will provide high capacity transit service along the Dulles Corridor, reduce auto congestion, and decrease travel time between cities and towns around Washington Dulles International Airport and downtown D.C. Phase 1 construction began along Route 123 in March 2009. The state highway connects a portion of Woodbridge to Fairfax County.

For Virginia residents in Silver Line construction areas coping with unbearable noise and traffic bottlenecks due to lane closures, the summer opening couldn’t come fast enough.

“It’s been frustrating that [the transportation authorities] kept saying [the Silver Line] will be ready soon,” said Jason Kaufman of Herndon, Virginia.

A West Falls Church resident said Silver Line construction has made driving difficult. “I used to go out to the Ross and Marshall’s department stores but not anymore,” said Jeni Leason. “The left hand side of Route 7 [is a mess].”

Matthew Norris lives in Merrifield, Virginia, part of Fairfax County. “The traffic [due to line construction] is pretty bad,” he said. “It gets very crowded in my neighborhood. I’m right down the street from the construction. It puts an emotional toll on people.”

Silver Line Phase 1 service will run from Wiehle-Reston East station to Largo Town Center in Largo, Maryland. Trains will be scheduled to run every six minutes during rush hour and every 12 to 20 minutes during off-peak hours. The new Phase 1 Silver Line stations are McLean, Tysons Corner, Greensboro, Spring Hill and Wiehle-Reston East.

As Phase 1 completion work continues, Phase 2 is being funded by a nearly $1.9 billion low-interest long-term federal loan. The amount constitutes a third of the second phase’s total cost. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Fox signed the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) on May 1. The TIFIA program provides federal credit assistance to finance nationally and regionally significant surface transportation programs.