DC Metro preps for Silver Line opening day

Anne Wernikoff

The Washington, D.C., Metrorail subway system is preparing for the opening of its first new rail line in more than two decades on Saturday, The Washington Post reports

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) long awaited Silver Line will begin running on new tracks in Northern Virginia at noon on Saturday. 

The agency’s General Manager Richard Sarles told the Post that the new transit line was ready to begin accepting passengers after five years of construction and multiple delays

“We are prepared,” Sarles told the paper. “We’re ready.”

The opening of the Silver Line will be the first extension of the Metrorail system, which is the nation's second busiest transit system, since 2004. The new line includes more than 11 miles of new track in Tysons Corner and Reston, Va.

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 Northern Virginia had pressured Metro to wrap up construction as an initial December 2013 opening date projection slipped. Several local members of Congress are expected to attend a Saturday morning ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Wiehle-Reston East Station that will be the temporary terminus of the new subway line until it is extended toward Dulles Airport.  

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is also scheduled to attend the Silver Line’s opening ceremony. 

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.