Contractor says Silver Line is complete; MWAA now has 15 days to decide


A portion of the Wiehle-Reston East Station along Metro’s new Silver Line is seen during a tour in November 2013 in Fairfax County. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

The contractor building the first phase of the Silver Line submitted documents Friday saying that construction and testing on the rail line is complete, officials said, setting the stage for Metro to take control of the rail line as early as this month.

It will now be up to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to review thousands of pages of documents to see if it agrees. It will have 15 calendar days to decide.

Metro officials, who will manage and operate the Silver Line, also will take part in the review, although they have not yet taken charge of the rail extension.

“We have a daunting task to complete within the next two weeks,” said Pat Nowakowski, executive director of the rail project. “We have to be very thorough to ensure that everything that is required to be there is there.”

Both agencies must agree with the contractor’s assessment of its work before the project can take the next step: up to 90 days of testing and training conducted by Metro officials. It will be up to Metro to determine when passenger service on the rail line’s first phase — which includes four stations in Tysons Corner and one in Reston — will begin.

If the handover comes this month, it is possible that service could start this summer.

Metro officials have been tight-lipped about a possible start date for rail service. In an e-mailed statement, a spokesman noted that Friday’s announcement is simply part of the agreement between the MWAA and its contractor. Metro will not accept the project until it has determined that its requirements were met.

Although there had been hope that passenger service on the first phase of the rail line could begin last December, delays have pushed that back. A September deadline was pushed back as contractors rushed to complete work, including finishing the five stations for the line’s first phase. Other hopes of it being ready to be turned over in November were dashed after engineers found software problems connected to the automatic train control system, a key safety component.

The delays have prompted some elected officials — including Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) — to question whether the MWAA and its contractors were doing enough to complete the project.

In January, officials completed a simulated service test, designed to see how trains on the Silver Line work when other portions of the Metro system were operating. Some problems surfaced, including issues related to the automatic train control system. In at least one instance, a train that received a red signal was given commands to move forward even though it should have been told to stop, according to three people with knowledge of the test.

The Silver Line rail extension is one of the largest infrastructure projects under construction in the United States. It is being built in two phases and will eventually include a rail link to Dulles International Airport.

It is being funded through a combination of state, federal and local funds, but the majority of the project will be paid for by users of the Dulles Toll Road.

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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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