Still no word on Silver Line completion


A train approaches the Wiehle-Reston East Station on Nov. 4. The station is part of the anticipated Silver Line. (Matt McClain/ The Washington Post)

Here’s the latest update on the Silver Line.

To start: No we do not yet know when Silver Line passenger service will begin. And even though the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s Board of Directors is slated to get an update on the project’s first phase at their monthly meeting this morning, we are still unlikely to have an answer.

What the board and the public will likely be told, is that the contractor on the $5.6 billion rail project, Dulles Transit Partners and MWAA officials are still working to determine what needs to be done in order for the project to be considered “substantially complete.”

For their part, DTP spokeswoman Michelle Michael said Tuesday that they had not yet received a definitive list of the issues MWAA would like them to address in order for the project to be considered complete.

Officials at MWAA said the two sides are trying to work out the outstanding issues.

“We are meeting daily, multiple times a day to get the right people together to get clarification of what needs to be resolved,” said Pat Nowakowski, executive director of the rail project. “We are working as aggressively and as expeditiously as we can to get the project done as soon as possible.”

Neither side would offer a timeline for when the project might be complete.

As you might recall, DTP, which is led by infrastructure giant Bechtel, submitted documents on Feb. 7 saying they believed they had completed their work on the first phase of the rail line. But on Feb. 24, MWAA officials said they had determined more work was needed.

In making the announcement, Nowakowski said DTP failed to meet seven of 12 criteria outlined in the contract. The issues ranged from missing paperwork related to safety and security certifications and occupancy permits for train stations. He also said there were water leaks in some buildings and problems with the elevators and escalators at the train stations. Nowakowski said there were also lingering issues with the automatic train control system — the source of an earlier project delay.

“Substantially complete” is contract lingo used to define the point at which the two parties agree the project is ready to be turned over MWAA. MWAA must then meet another set of criteria before Metro officials will take control of the project.

One important note: Once Metro takes control of the first phase of the Silver Line, it will be up to that agency to determine when passenger service will begin. Metro officials have 90 days to complete their testing and training before passenger service can begin, but officials have said they might not need the full three months. Officials from the Tri-State Oversight Committee, the safety agency that oversees Metro, also will do its own evaluation of the rail line’s first phase.

The first phase of the Silver Line will have five stops — four in Tysons Corner and one in Reston at Wiehle Avenue. Total cost for the first phase of the rail line is expected to be roughly $2.9 billion. Preliminary work on the second phase of the project, which will include a station at Washington Dulles International Airport, has already begun. The bulk of the project’s cost is being paid for by Dulles Toll Road users.

Note: I will be live tweeting highlights from the MWAA Board of Director’s Wednesday meeting. Follow me @loriara

Lori Aratani writes about how people live, work and play in the D.C. region for The Post’s Transportation and Development team.
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