DC Metro: Silver Line carried 220K passengers in first week

Anne Wernikoff

The Washington, D.C., Metrorail system's new Silver Line carried 220,000 passengers in its first full week of operation, the authority that operates the capital area's subway lines said Monday.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) said nearly 16,000 passengers boarded trains at its five new stations in northern Virginia between July 26 and Aug. 3.

The transit authority has predicted the new line will attract 25,000 passengers per day after it reaches one full year of being in operation.

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Officials with the agency said Monday that first-week numbers showed the Silver Line was off to a "solid start."

"On average, 15,942 passengers boarded a Silver Line train at one of the five new stations each weekday last week — roughly two-thirds of the way to achieving the project’s goal of 25,000 weekday boardings after one year of service," the agency said in a statement announcing the ridership totals.

The Silver Line, which opened on July 26, was the first extension of the Metrorail system since 2004. The new line includes more than 11 miles of new track in Tysons Corner and Reston, Va., before it connects with the Orange Line on the existing Metro system, which is the nation's second busiest transit network.

The Silver Line was built for Metro by the agency that operates Dulles International Airport, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, 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 was one of the largest public transportation projects to be constructed recently in the U.S. The line, which has 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.

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.