In the practical minds of commuters, the Silver Line is a transit project and its a road work project. The transit part, they want open. The road work part, they want done.
This week, they learned that Metro has taken control of the transit line and hopes to open it this summer. Here’s an update on the road work progress for Phase 1 of the Silver Line along the Dulles Toll Road and through Tysons Corner.
All of the work on Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) is done, said Marcia McAllister, spokeswoman for the project.
Work on the Dulles Toll Road is done, but some work remains to be done on the Dulles Access Highway, the airport lanes in between the toll road lanes. That work zone is under the Route 7 flyover, where an emergency vehicle crossover is under construction in the median. It should be done by mid-July.
Silver Line work along the Dulles Connector Road also is done.
Work on Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) between Route 123 and Westpark/Gosnell roads is scheduled to be done by mid-June. This has long been the high-impact part of the project for drivers, because it involved eliminating the service road, shifting lanes and creating a median for the elevated tracks. The runner up for impact on traffic would be the disruptions on the Capital Beltway for construction of the railroad bridge above it, but that was over long ago.
Much of the remaining work involves paving or paving repairs to lanes, the entrances to station kiss-and-ride drop-offs or by power substations. While mid-June is the target for completion, this part of the project is heavily dependent on good weather. It’s certainly warm enough now, but rain storms can slow progress.
“We hear a lot of good words about traffic flow in Tysons being better that it once was,” McAllister said. “And so many people seem to have long forgotten the old days when parallel service roads and many, many mid-block entrances and exits added to heavy congestion. Removing those has been a major positive result of rail. Sidewalks are in place, landscaping and lighting are being done.”
The years of road work annoyed drivers, especially those who have no intention of riding the Silver Line, but the road work is not the source of delays in opening the new line. That’s largely a function of issues that arose within the line’s right of way, such as the station speakers that didn’t meet the fire code and had to be replaced.
“I think the streetscape will look great by the time opening takes place,” McAllister said.
Many commuters who have had their fill of orange barrels and lane shifts will just be glad to get it over with. But the traffic impact of opening four Metrorail stations in Tysons Corner and one on Wiehle Avenue in the Reston area is something we’ll pay attention to.
If the opening occurs during the late July-August vacation season, we may not see the full effect till September. The station on Wiehle Avenue is the only one with a parking garage, but a temporary parking lot will be available near the McLean station on the east side of Tysons. Most have drop-off points and all have bus stops nearby, and that’s likely to create some new traffic patterns.
McAllister points out one benefit for walkers who are simply trying to get across the wide roads in Tysons Corner: “Pedestrians will be able to use the pedestrian access pavilions and bridges to cross Routes 7 and 123 without paying Metro fares!”