DC Metro takes control of Silver Line extension

DC Metro takes control of Silver Line extension
© Anne Wernikoff

The agency that operates the Washington, D.C., Metrorail subway system took control of the line that will extend its rail service toward Dulles International Airport on Tuesday.

The transfer of the transit line, which has been dubbed the Silver Line, is being hailed as a major milestone in the development of the project.

Control of the project was shifted from the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority, which operates Dulles Airport and built the new railway, to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which operates the existing capital area subway lines.

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The D.C. transit agency said Tuesday that the transfer of the new tracks and station signified the start of a 90-day countdown for passenger service.

"Metro took control of the first phase of the Silver Line today at 5:30 a.m. The milestone, known as the Operational Readiness Date (ORD), marked the point where care and control of the line was formally transferred from the Airports Authority to Metro," the agency said in a statement.

"From today's date, Metro has up to 90 days for testing and training prior to opening the line for passenger service this summer," the Metro statement continued. "The opening date will be set by the Metro Board of Directors."

The completion of the Silver Line has been the subject of an intense guessing game among transportation officials in Washington.

The Silver Line is one of the largest public transportation projects currently under construction in the U.S. The line is being built in part with $900 million in money that was received from the federal government.

The first phase of the new railway was originally scheduled to open in December 2013, but the line has been delayed repeatedly as construction problems have mounted.

Once the Silver Line is opened to passengers, trains will run from Prince George's County, Md., through Washington, D.C., and Arlington, Va., before they branch off of Metro's existing Orange Line and run through Tysons Corner, Va. The first phase of the Silver Line is scheduled to terminate in Reston, Va., which is about 5 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.