By Keith Laing - 06/23/14 10:42 AM EDT
After five years of construction and multiple delays, the Washington, D.C. Metrorail system's new Silver Line will open for passenger service on July 26, the agency that operates the capital area subway announced on Monday.
The long-awaited announcement follows about a year of delays in the opening of the new rail line, which will be the first extension of the Metrorail system since 2004.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has been testing the appromixately 11-mile line for about a month since taking control of the new tracks and stations last month.
"We have set the opening date for the Silver Line as Saturday, July 26,” Sarles said in a statement. “The five new Silver Line stations will open to customers at noon, and the first Silver Line train will depart Wiehle-Reston East, bound for Largo Town Center, at that time.”
The Silver Line was built for Metro by the agency that operates Dulles International Airport, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), because it is designed in part to eventually connect the airport to the capital area transit system. It will be the first extension of Metro system to be branded with a new color since the agency's Green Line in Washington and Prince George's County, Md. was opened in 1991.
The Silver Line, which will become Metro's sixth rail line, is one of the largest public transportation projects currently under construction in the U.S. The line, which faced multiple delays during construction, was built in part with $900 million in money that was received from the federal government.
Lawmakers from Virginia who have pressured Metro to wrap up construction as an initial December 2013 opening date projection slipped by hailed the announcement that passengers will soon be able to ride the new Silver Line.
"[Important] step forward - great to see opening date," Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) tweeted minutes after Metro's announcement.
The first phase of the Silver Line is scheduled to terminate about five miles short of Dulles airport.
The second phase of the Silver Line, which is scheduled to include the stop at Dulles, is not set to open until 2018. Construction on the second phase of the new Metro line is expected to begin this summer.
The entire Silver Line is expected to cost $5.6 billion to construct. The bulk of the funding for the line beyond the federal government's initial investment and a recently announced $1.9 billion loan for the second phase is slated to be paid for by revenue from toll increases on the highway that connects Dulles airport to the Capital Beltway highway.
-This story was last updated with new information at 12:24 p.m.