Big year for D.C. area Metro's Dulles rail project

Sunday, May 2, 2010; C02

For more than a year, the Dulles Metrorail project looked more like a large-scale utility relocation program. During 2010, it will start to look like a railroad. Travelers will be able to tell where the stations are. They will be able to see the piers and guideways that will form the elevated line.

For drivers on routes 267, 7 and 123 and on the Capital Beltway and Interstate 66, it will be fascinating to watch one of the largest transit projects in the nation as it starts to jell. Drivers on the Dulles Connector and Chain Bridge roads will have views this spring of the first gigantic truss used to assemble large, prefabricated pieces of the line.

Behind a green fence on the north side of Chain Bridge Road in Tysons Corner, workers are excavating tubes for the inbound and outbound tracks. Office workers and shoppers who use some of the parking garages get a partial view of this tunnel.

When the line to Reston is done in 2013, the drivers, office workers and shoppers can explain to their children how it got there. But this year, they will endure travel disruptions that are more significant than anything the project has shown us so far.

Metrorail closings

For the first time, transit riders will be significantly affected. Metro plans to shut down rail service between East Falls Church and West Falls Church for the Memorial Day weekend and the first two weekends in June.

During the shutdown, construction crews will work on a pier east of the West Falls Church Station, drive piles along the side of I-66 and replace ties on the tracks where the new line will connect to the Orange Line.

During the shutdowns, the Orange Line will operate between Vienna and West Falls Church and between East Falls Church and New Carrollton. Free shuttle buses will bridge the gap. But they can be slow and crowded.

Driving delays

The Virginia Department of Transportation suggests that drivers add 10 to 19 minutes to their normal travel times through these zones.

Dulles Connector Road/I-66

Work is underway for the tie-in to the Orange Line. Passersby will see pile driving, construction of piers for the elevated line and work on the flyover between I-66 and the Dulles Connector Road. Sometimes, the work will require complete overnight closings of westbound I-66.

Route 123

Utility relocation is nearing completion. Piers are under construction where the railway will pass over the Capital Beltway. This is one of the busiest -- perhaps the busiest -- work zone in the region, because it's also where the high-occupancy toll lane project is widening the Beltway.

To the west, construction of inbound and outbound Metrorail tunnels is complete below International Drive. Work is beginning on the Tysons East and Tysons Central 123 stations.

Route 7

This is where the project has its biggest impact on a roadway. The east and west travel lanes on Route 7 will shift outward into the former service roads. In the cleared median, construction will get underway by the end of summer on the Tysons Central 7 and Tysons West stations.

Dulles Access Road/

Toll Road

Look for occasional lane closings and temporary narrowing of the roadways. The focus of construction is in the median, where the railway's first phase will terminate in the station under construction at Wiehle Avenue.

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