DC Metro Silver Line decision expected Thursday

Anne Wernikoff

A decision on the fate of the extension of Washington, D.C.’s Metrorail subway system toward Dulles International Airport is expected to come on Thursday, the Associated Press reports

The Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority (MWAA), which operates Dulles airport and is building the Metro Silver Line that will run towards it, is at the end of a 15-day review period for deciding whether it is ready to accept the railway from contractors.

The contractors who are building the often-delayed Metro Silver Line said on April 9 that the first half of the capital area subway extension is "substantially complete."

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The Silver Line was declared complete in February, but the airport authority officials found problems with the railway in several areas and declined to accept it.

Among the issues the airport authority said it was handing the Silver Line back to contractors to rectify were missing certificates of occupancy for 20 buildings along the rail line, escalator and elevator problems and water leaks. The D.C. airports’ authority also said there were problems with new tracks’ Automated Train Control system, which is the technology that was blamed for failing during a deadly 2009 accident on Metro’s Red Line. 

If the agency reverses course on those issues on Thursday, the Silver Line will be handed over the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which operates the existing D.C. Metro subway lines. The transit agency will then have 90 days to conduct its own testing of the new railway before it could be opened for passengers. 

The Silver Line is one of the largest public transportation projects that is currently under construction in the United States. The line is intended to connect Dulles International Airport with downtown Washington, D.C., and it is being built, in part, with $900 million in federal money that was awarded by the Department of Transportation. 

The first phase of the Silver Line, which runs 11.5 miles through Tysons Corner to Reston, Va., was originally scheduled to open by the end of 2013. However, the line has faced repeated delays, even as construction on its second phase to take the Metro system to Dulles and beyond is scheduled to begin this summer. 

The Federal Transit Administration signaled last month that it is likely to award the Silver Line another $1.9 billion in additional federal loans that can be applied to the construction of its second phase.