Silver Line faces another delay


Tracks are seen stretching out from the McLean Station, part of the anticipated Silver Line. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
February 24

The launch of the Silver Line has been pushed back again after the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said Monday that the construction company building the rail line has not completed its work.

The delay could mean Silver Line service may not start until summer, but it is not adding to the cost of the project.

“Today it is our determination that [Dulles Transit Partners] failed to achieve substantial completion based on the documents we’ve reviewed,” said Pat Nowakowski, executive director of the rail project. “We don’t want this to be a long process. We want to move on as quickly as we can, but in order to do so, it’s got to be complete.”

Nowakowski said Dulles Transit Partners failed to meet seven of 12 criteria outlined in the contract. The issues range from missing paperwork related to safety and security certifications and occupancy permits for train systems, most specifically, the automatic train control system, which continues to be a problem and was the cause of an earlier delay. He also cited water leaks in buildings and problems with the elevators and escalators.

Nowakowski said he did not know how long it would take the contractor to address the issues, but that MWAA planned to meet with DTP to outline its concerns Tuesday.

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DTP officials did not respond to requests for comment.

DTP, lead by construction giant Bechtel, said earlier this month that it had completed work on the first phase of the $5.6 billion rail extension. That declaration started a 15-day review period by MWAA to determine whether it agreed. Monday’s announcement means that DTP will have to do additional work until MWAA officials are satisfied. MWAA must determine that DTP has completed its work before it can begin to turn the Silver Line over to Metro.

The much anticipated Silver Line will include four stops in Tysons Corner and one in Reston at Wiehle Avenue. It is one of the largest infrastructure projects underway in the United States. Officials had hoped to begin service by the end of 2013.

Construction on the line, which is being built in two phases, is overseen by MWAA. When the line is ready, the trains will be operated by Metro. The first phase is expected to cost about $2.9 billion.

Drivers on the Dulles Toll Road will pay for much of the project, but funding is also being provided by MWAA, Fairfax and Loudoun counties, and the commonwealth. The federal government contributed $900 million to the first phase of the project.

Last week, members of Northern Virginia’s congressional delegation announced that MWAA and its funding partners are likely to receive a nearly $1.9 billion federal loan to pay for construction of the Silver Line’s second phase. Preliminary work already has begun on the rail line’s second segment, which will include a stop at Washington Dulles International Airport and extend Metro service into Loudoun.

Once MWAA certifies that the contractor’s work is complete, its officials will work with Metro to determine when the transit system will take control of the line. Metro will have up to 90 days to do its own testing and training. It will be up to Metro to determine when the line will open for riders.

“We remain ready once we get to our 90-day countdown,’’ Metro spokeswoman Morgan Dye said. “But we’re just not there yet.”

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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