DC Metro to take control of new Silver Line next week

Anne Wernikoff

The agency that operates the Washington, D.C., Metrorail subway system is planning to take control of the new Silver Line extension toward Dulles International Airport on May 27, The Washington Post reported on Monday.

The transfer will take place between the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), which is building the new rail line and operates Dulles Airport, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which runs the current Metro subway system.

The handover of the rail line will trigger a 90-day testing period for the transit agency's officials to familiarize themselves with the new line.

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If the handover is completed as scheduled next week, the new line could be open by the end of August, according to the report.

The Silver Line is one of the largest public transportation projects 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 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, which is scheduled to include the station at Dulles. 

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. 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 contractors building the project initially declared it was complete in February, but the airport authority officials found at that time there were still problems with the railway in several areas and declined to accept it.

Among the issues named to be rectified 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 the 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.

Metro officials said Monday that the remaining issues are not major enough to cause additional delays in the transfer of the line.

The second phase of the Silver Line is not supposed to open until 2018.

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