Silver Line contractor could face millions in fines if work is not completed by early April


A portion of the Wiehle-Reston East Station is seen during a November tour of the Silver Line. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
February 25

The contractor building the Silver Line Metro extension faces millions of dollars in fines if it fails to complete the project by an April deadline.

Officials from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority met Tuesday with Dulles Transit Partners, the contractor building the first phase of the $5.6 billion rail line — just one day after MWAA informed DTP that more work was needed before the rail line could be considered complete. The two sides discussed the project and the next steps, and were scheduled to meet again Wednesday.

DTP had submitted documents Feb. 7 stating that its work was finished, raising hopes that the project could be turned over to Metro this month and that passenger service could begin in the spring.

But after a 15-day review, MWAA said that the contractor had failed to meet seven of 12 criteria set out in its contract. Issues ranged from missing safety certificates to problems with the automatic train control system — a key safety component that controls train movement and speed, and an issue that has dogged the project for months. There also were problems with elevators and escalators at the rail stations, MWAA officials said.

Pat Nowakowski, executive director of the rail project, said he did not know how long it might take DTP to complete its work. Officials at DTP declined to comment on the matter except in an e-mailed statement.

“We received MWAA’s decision late this afternoon and are now reviewing the information,” said the statement sent late Monday. “We will work with MWAA to resolve any outstanding matters as our focus is on the successful delivery of this signature project to the people of northern Virginia and the Washington metropolitan area.”

DTP needs to finish the work within seven months of the agreed upon completion date of Sept. 9, 2013. If the work is not finished within that time, starting roughly April 10, DTP would face a $25,000-a-day penalty until the work is done. If the project is not completed 92 days after that April date, the contractor would have to pay roughly $2.3 million in fines, plus an additional $75,000 a day.

Ultimately, if the project is delayed more than six months from that April date, DTP could be required to pay more than $9 million total. Under the terms of the contract, the payments are capped at $60 million.

Had DTP completed the project earlier than scheduled, it could have reaped financial rewards of up to $10 million.

Once MWAA certifies that DTP has completed its work, it will work with Metro to determine when officials there will take control of the Silver Line. While MWAA is responsible for managing construction of the rail line, Metro will operate it. Once Metro takes control of the rail line, it has 90 days to complete its testing and training.

Metro officials, who are responsible for determining when Silver Line service will begin, have been tight-lipped about a start date and would not comment on how this latest delay might impact their plans. However, given this latest report, it’s possible that the start of passenger service could be pushed into the summer.

The first phase of the Silver Line will include five stops, four in Tysons Corner and one at Wiehle Avenue in Reston. The majority of the costs for the new rail line will be paid for by Dulles Toll Road users.

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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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