DC Metro Silver Line opens with 51K inaugural weekend riders

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The Washington, D.C., Metrorail's new Silver Line opened over the weekend with 51,000 riders, the authority that operates the capital area subway system said Monday morning.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) tweeted Monday that 32,000 passengers boarded trains at its five new stations in northern Virginia on Saturday and another 19,000 took trips on Sunday.

The transit authority has predicted the new line will attract 25,000 passengers per day in its first couple of years.

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The Silver Line is 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 is 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 officially became Metro's sixth rail line on Saturday afternoon, was one of the largest public transportation projects to be constructed recently in the U.S. The line, which faced multiple delays since its construction began in 2009, was built in part with $900 million in money that was received from the federal government.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx attended the opening ceremony on Saturday for the new Metro line and he said it was an example of the type of construction that would be possible if Congress passed a new long-term transportation bill.

"The Obama Administration is proud to be a partner in delivering more world class transportation options to the Washington Metropolitan area and connecting thousands of residents and visitors with major employment, education and economic opportunities  throughout the region,” Foxx said in a statement.

“The Silver Line is an excellent example of why Congress should pass the President’s GROW AMERICA Act so we can meet the rising demand for more and better transportation choices by supporting projects like this across the country,” the DOT chief continued.

The first phase of the Silver Line terminates about five miles short of Dulles airport in Reston, Va.

The second phase of the 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 year.

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.