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Live updates: Opening of Metro’s Silver Line

July 26, 2014

The first phase of the $5.6 billion Silver Line opened Saturday, connecting Tysons Corner and Reston to the Metrorail system. It’s the system’s first new rail line in more than two decades. The line’s first phase includes 11.4 miles in Fairfax County, with the second phase the connects to Dulles International Airport and into Loudoun County expected to open in 2018.

The first riders fill the first public train as it leaves the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station in Reston on Saturday. (Sarah Voisin/The Washington Post)

The first riders fill the first public train as it leaves the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station in Reston on Saturday. (Sarah Voisin/The Washington Post)

  • Rachel Weiner
  • ·

Just before 3 p.m., a few hours after the inaugural-train hoopla had ended — after the VIPs had departed, and the noontime first riders had taken their ride, and a lazy Saturday quiet had descended on the five new Silver Line stations — here came Michael Cohen and his wife, Rosanna, into the Spring Hill station, a structure so modern and airy and filled with light, it brings to mind an airport terminal.

“Gorgeous,” said Rosanna Cohen, 59, an interior designer.

“Really is gorgeous,” said her husband, also 59, a lobbyist in the Washington office of insurance giant AIG.

“Look,” Rosanna Cohen said, rubbing  her right arm. “I have goosebumps.”

The two are native New Yorkers who’ve lived since 1986 in a house about a mile and a half from the Spring Hill station. They said not a day has passed since they left Manhattan that they haven’t longed for a subway stop nearby.

Michael Cohen grew up on the Lower East Side, Avenue A. “Subway to Central Park, subway to Brooklyn, subway to all five boroughs,” he said wistfully. “Every train: The 1, the 2, the double-R, the 7th Avenue subway, the express — you name it, I rode it. I mean, that’s all we did.”

For more than a quarter-century, he’s fighting Northern Virginia traffic into Washington from his home near the Vienna-Great Falls border. “Like New York traffic,” he said.

But no more. His and his wife’s subway has finally arrived.

They were awaiting a Silver Line train into the city, just to see how fast they could get there and back, looking ahead to many more such jaunts in the future — for dinners, for shopping, for the theater — without getting into a car.

“Whenever I’m New York, even now, I don’t go anywhere except on the subway,” Michael Cohen said. “Believe me, in a suit, tie, doesn’t matter. I’m on the subway.”

Standing on the Spring Hill platform, he watched a DC-bound train roll into the station. “I’ve been waiting for it for years,” he said.

– Paul Duggan

  • Rachel Weiner
  • ·

Richard Tripp, 71, of Hyattsville, rode the first Silver Line train out of Largo. Tripp, who retired in 2002 after 37 years as a Metro employee, said he was working as an acting supervisor when the Rhode Island Avenue station opened on the Red Line in the 1970s.

“I never thought it would come out this far, I really didn’t,” Tripp said after arriving at the Wiehle-Reston East station. “It didn’t enter into my wildest dreams that it would ever come out here. This is great.”

– Katherine Shaver

  • Rachel Weiner
  • ·

WMATA has a headcount for the Silver Line’s first few hours, from noon to 3 p.m.:

  • Rachel Weiner
  • ·

Chris Norducci, 33, biked two hours from Mount Pleasant in the District to check out the new Spring Hill Silver Line station. An urban planner with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, he said he wanted to see the station for himself.

“Everything’s brand-spanking new and shiny and glass,” he said, holding his bike.

“There’s lots of suburbs around here and people are used to driving everywhere. It’s great to see them have access to the Metro now,” he said. “It’s going to be great for the environment and traffic.”

Having smoothly transported his bike up the elevator into the station, he planned to take the Silver Line back into the District, and though he won’t be using it to commute, he said he’d love to take it to Wolf Trap for a show.

– Karen Chen

  • Rachel Weiner
  • ·

Payton Chung, an urban planning blogger and editor at Streetsblog USA has organized a “Silver Line Pub Crawl,” kicking off at 4 p.m., hitting “the most esteemed saloons located along the new ‘Silver Route.’”

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  • Rachel Weiner
  • ·

It’s a good day for the Tysons Corner Center. The opening of the Silver Line brought crowds to the mall Saturday afternoon, with many riders saying they had waited years to have the Metro connection to the vibrant shopping center.

“This is super convenient! We don’t need to use the car anymore. It is amazing,” said Maria Swann, as she walked a few yards from the Tysons Corner Metro stop to the mall entrance. “It’s really, really nice. These are big improvements for the area.”

Swann, her husband, Eric Burgess, and their 9-year-old daughter, Erica, drove two or three times a month to the mall from their downtown D.C. home. Not any more, they said.

By 1 p.m. they were ready to shop. They boarded one of the first Silver Line trains from downtown to get to the mall for lunch.

“They smell like brand new. They look very shiny and neat and very, very modern,” Erica said of the new Metro stations. “They have a lot of silver on them.”

And with no tunnels on the ride, they said they enjoyed seeing Virginia.

As scores of Metro riders headed to shop, holding Silver Line flags, mall workers directed traffic and brand new signs guided people to the shopping center. At the parking lots, more security monitored the entrances and mall workers handed out mall directories.

“We have waited 25 years for this!” said Jacqueline Bolware, a Reston resident who rode from Wiehle-Reston East to Tysons with her friend, Angela Harpalani.

“We have waited for so long, we wanted to be a part of this day,” said Bolware, walking toward the Lord & Taylor store entrance. “We have paid for it. We watched the Dulles Toll Road, the Dulles access to the airport, and we have been promised this Metro to Reston for so many years.”

Now that’s here, Bolware said, the days driving to the mall are over.

But the Silver Line also gave the Reston residents hope, they said, that more people will visit Reston Town Center and other shopping destinations in their hometown.

“This will change how people travel in Northern Virginia. We are excited for people to come experience Reston,” said Harpalani.

Saturday afternoon, they said, after their 20-minute ride to Tysons, it was time to celebrate. “We will get a martini, sit down, watch the crowds and then take the train back home,” Bolware said.

– Luz Lazo

  • Rachel Weiner
  • ·


Shed Donnette, 53, had watched the construction of the Spring Hill station from across the street at the Honda of Tysons Corner dealership where he works as general manager.

The construction had hurt business, he said, so he was looking forward to the Silver Line’s opening day. But that wasn’t his only reason to be excited.

“I have never taken a train before,” Donnette said. “I’ve never lived in a metro area with mass public transit before, so this is my first train.”

Not just his first Silver Line ride, Donnette explained to a bewildered Metro employee as she helped him purchase his commemorative Silver Line SmartTrip card, his first train ride, period.

Donnette commutes by bus from his home in Chantilly, Va., or drives. He said the expected decrease in car traffic should open new opportunities for the dealership and although there was some anxiety as to how the Metro service would impact sales, he hopes to see more casual customers walking by. The dealership also plans to give out free Metro rides to customers who drop their cars for service. Donnette said he sees the new Metro stop complementing the car business rather than taking away from it. He said he plans to take the Silver Line to get lunch at Tysons.

“When I first started here I really wanted Chipotle so my colleagues told me to go to the mall — it took me 30 minutes to drive there in the traffic,” Donnette said. He timed it at less than 10 minutes by Metro. “I’ve been getting sandwiches every day, so I’m looking forward to lunches now.”

– Karen Chen

Shed Donnette. (Karen Chen/The Washington Post)

Shed Donnette. (Karen Chen/The Washington Post)

  • Rachel Weiner
  • ·

Paul Floroff, a civil engineer from New York City, came to the D.C. area today specifically for the opening of the Silver Line. Sporting a tie with a transit map of New York on it, he came to the McLean station platform and looked around at the view.

He’s gone to transit openings before but this is his first outside the New York area.

“I like it,” he said. “It’s clean. All the new stations are above ground.”

Floroff has been following reports on the construction and after seeing a notice on Metro’s website about the opening, he hopped on Amtrak to Union station, took the Red Line to Metro Center, then switched to the Orange Line. Finally he took a Fairfax bus in order to be on the first Silver Line train.

– Pat Sullivan

  • Rachel Weiner
  • ·

Helen Canlas, 66, a retired internal auditor from Gaithersburg, rode the first Silver Line train from Largo to see if it would make sense for her trip in two weeks to Dulles International Airport, where she will catch a flight to Denver. Canlas said she wanted to see how long the train would take and what airport shuttle options would be at the end of the Silver Line.

As the ride to the Wiehle-Reston East station reached one hour and 10 minutes, Canlas said she was rethinking her plans. Taking the Red Line from the Shady Grove station near her home to Metro Center and then transferring to the Silver Line would likely take far longer than her son driving her, she said.

“This is a long ride,” Canlas sighed.

One row behind her, Nicole Nixon, 36, of District Heights, piped up, “This [train ride] would take longer than the flight!”

– Katherine Shaver

  • Rachel Weiner
  • ·

About noon, when the gates opened, several hundred people were in line outside the Wiehle station’s north entrance, waiting to board the inaugural train.

Not all were able to get on. One who did was Anand Patel, 45, a civil engineer who lives in Ashburn. He drove to Wiehle with his 11-year-old son, Arab Patel, and waited three hours.

“I worked on this project for six years,” he said. “It’s amazing that something I worked on is finally real. It’s the most joyous feeling to see that people are actually here on the train.”

As Patel spoke, the train, approaching the Spring Hill station, lurched a bit, and enough water to fill a coffee mug sloshed out of an overhead light fixture, dousing his son. The boy just smiled.

Patel reckoned it was either air conditioning condensation or leftover water from the train being washed. “It’s all right,” he said, looking down at the child. “He loves it.”

Nick Dowsett, 58, of Reston, also got aboard the first train after a morning-long wait outside the Wiehle station.

“This is a very significant day for Reston, a very significant chapter, and I wanted to be part of it,” he said.

Dowsett works for IntelSat, a satellite-services company, which, because of the Silver Line, recently moved its headquarters from the District to a new office tower just outside the Tysons Corner station.

Which means Dowsett’s commute is suddenly much shorter. He used to drive from Reston to Northwest Washington. Now he’s just three Metro stops from his office.

“So it’s not only a significant day for Reston — it’s a significant day for me!”

– Paul Duggan

The first riders wait in line to get on the first public train at the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station in Reston on Saturday. (Sarah Voisin/ The Washington Post)

The first riders wait in line to get on the first public train at the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station in Reston on Saturday. (Sarah Voisin/ The Washington Post)

  • Tim Richardson
  • ·

It was a good day to be a transit nerd, said Stephanie Taylor, who along with three friends was among the first to ride the Silver Line.

“I love, love public transportation,” she said, just after snapping a selfie aboard the train and snapping photos for her fellow riders. Taylor, a traffic engineer for Arlington County, said she owns a car but takes public transportation whenever she can. Now with the opening of the Silver Line, she can take Metro to the gym.

“This is ridiculously exciting,” added Taylor’s friend, Sophia Fisher, also a traffic engineer, who organized Saturday’s outing. Also in the group was Jason Lee, who was making his first trip ever to the Tysons Corner Center.

“I live in the city and I never go to the ‘burbs,” he explained. Lee, who is in the Navy, sold his car when he moved to D.C. a year-and-a-half ago and uses Metro regularly to get from his home in southwest D.C. to his office at the Navy Yard.

Now with a Metrorail connection, he said, there may be more shopping in his future.

- Lori Aratani

  • Rachel Weiner
  • ·

Four clean spacious restrooms greeted McLean station users Saturday and within an hour of the station opening, Metro custodian Lindsey Hoffmann was already cleaning.

“We have people attending every station. We check them once an hour,” she said.

Ashley Robbins of Alexandria tweeted, “I just used the cleanest WMATA bathroom ever.”


Robbins marveled that a custodian was already on duty.

“When you’re sharing a bathroom with 2 million other riders, I normally stay away from them,” she said. She also appreciated the cleanliness of the station: “It’s so much brighter” than the older stops.

– Pat Sullivan

  • Lori Aratani
  • ·

At East Falls Church, riders scrambled to catch the first westbound Silver Line train — cheering and waving the free Silver Line banners Metro officials had handed out for the occasion.

Meanwhile, aboard the inaugural Silver Line train, which departed Wiehle-Reston East just after noon — was the Stafford-Renard family. They had delayed their trip to Bethany Beach to be a part of the opening day festivities. When asked about the first ever Silver Line ride, 5-year-old Grant, a transportation buff, said: “it’s been like . . . Awesome.”

 

Dad Steven Renard was just as giddy. He showed off a snapshot of Grant on his various train adventures — including sitting in the engineer’s seat on a train in Toronto. Soon, Renard said, they’ll be adding Saturday’s Silver Line ride to the scrapbook.

“This is so exciting,” Renard said.

The mood on the train was giddy as passengers snapped selfies, did little jigs and generally savored the feeling of being among the first to ride the new line. When  the train finally pulled out of the station, a giant cheer went up. Those squashed inside the car waved at those still waiting on the platform, who in turn waved their pennants.

Crowds greeted the train as it moved through the Silver Line stations. The number of folks greeting the inaugural train began to diminish as it began moving through the older stations.

At the Smithsonian station, riders got a rare treat: a 7000 series car waited on the westbound track, drawing ohhhs and awwws from the many self-described transit nerds on first Silver Line train.

- Lori Aratani

  • Rachel Weiner
  • ·

At the Largo station – the eastern end of the Silver Line – about 30 people waited around noon to be among the first to ride in the western direction. A groan of disappointment rose from the group every time a non-Silver Line train pulled into the station.  The first official Silver Line train was scheduled to arrive and leave at 12:03 p.m. Metro station officials told the crowd the ceremonies were running long in Tysons, and they were waiting for permission to switch arriving Orange or Blue Line trains to Silver as they left the station.

Finally, around 12:25 p.m., Metro officials directed people to board an Orange Line train, promising that it would switch to a Silver train down the line. Three minutes later, train passengers clapped and cheered “Yay!” as the red digital display inside the train changed to “Silver Line.”

Reggie Watkins, 50, of Upper Marlboro, was doing a test ride from Largo to his office in Tysons to see if it would work for his Monday morning commute. Watkins said he wanted to see how long it would take to reach the Tysons station and then walk to his office.

Watkins, an engineer, was going to do a simple calculation, timing whether the trip would take longer than his one-hour driving commute.

“If it takes longer than driving, it’s not going to happen,” Watkins said.

Watkins said he was a bit concerned but not surprised when the first Silver Line train left Largo about 20 minutes late.

“It’s messed up already,” Watkins said, “but I know they need to get the kinks out.”

– Katherine Shaver

  • Rachel Weiner
  • ·
Riders pack a car on the first public train leaving the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station in Reston on Saturday. (Astrid Riecken/The Washington Post)

Riders pack a car on the first public train leaving the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station in Reston on Saturday. (Astrid Riecken/The Washington Post)

Silver Line passengers at the Greensboro station didn’t have to wait long for the full lurching Metro experience. About two dozen passengers cheered the first Largo-bound train that pulled in at 12:06 p.m. No sooner had they settled into their seats did they hear an out-of-service announcement over the loudspeaker. No official explanation, but it wasn’t a mechanical problem. It turned out this train went out ahead of the VIP train that was supposed to go first.

“Didn’t expect the first day to go smoothly, did you?” cracked one Metro officer.

“We were so happy,” said a rueful Amir Massoudi, a Herndon software consultant who had to exit with his wife and two stroller-bound kids in tow. They were headed for the Smithsonian.

The  VIP train rolled in, packed, at 12:16. The next train had room for the Massoudis.

– Bill Turque

  • Rachel Weiner
  • ·
Lalitha Mani and husband Dev Mani at the Spring Hill station. (Karen Chen/The Washington Post)

Lalitha Mani and husband Dev Mani at the Spring Hill station. (Karen Chen/The Washington Post)

Lalitha Mani, 63, laughed with her husband and friends at the Spring Hill station.

“Oh yes, we’re ready,” she said, holding up one of the ceremonious Silver Line flags handed out as she entered the station.

Mani had walked 0.7 miles from her home in Vienna to the new station. She said she liked the path through the trees and the walk was quicker than it would have taken her to drive.

“We’re thrilled,” she said as Metro employees ushered the waiting subway riders to the platform. People joked that the escalators worked and snapped pictures of the station sign. It felt like a birthday party.

“It’s been planned and planned and planned and then delayed and delayed and delayed,” Mani said. “I’m so excited. There’s just glee in the air. Everyone’s all smiles, which is different than a usual metro station scene when everyone is just going about their own business.”

As she and her gang boarded the train about 10 minutes before noon, the sign still read Orange. “Maybe it’ll turn Silver at noon?” She guessed. She wanted to ride until it switched to Silver.

Mani, who works in real estate from her home, said she was looking forward to using the Silver Line to get to meetings downtown. Previously she drove because parking at Metro stations was tricky and there was no station to walk to.

“I think this is a great opening of this area, it’ll be greener and not just cars breezing through,” she said.

As the speakers announced that the doors were closing Mani and her friends chanted along, “Doors closing! Doors closing!”

– Karen Chen

  • Rachel Weiner
  • ·

Silvia Bermudez, 22, will be late for work today thanks to the discontinuation of the 402 and 23W lines at Tysons corner. She used to take either line to work at a bakery each Saturday but today it took her a while to figure out her commute.

“The signs didn’t say what alternative routes I could take,” Bermudez said in Spanish.

It didn’t help that she spoke broken English and her phone was running out of battery to call a friend for a ride.

With some help from a shuttle driver she figured out her best route and managed to board a 423 bus at 11 a.m. She still worries she won’t be on time for her 11:30 a.m. shift.

Vivian Bao, 42, from McLean arrived at the new Tysons Corner station at 11 a.m. She said she’s excited to see the grand opening of the Silver Line and to know that all the delays are finally over.

But she doesn’t plan on riding the train today.

“I just want to join in the festivities. It’s exciting,” Bao said.

Later in the week Bao plans to ride in to DC.

Once the gates to the station opened at 11:30 a.m. she got a Silver Line silver flag and happily waved it in the air as she walked up the escalator.

– Ileana Najarro

  • Rachel Weiner
  • ·

Update: The broken escalator was fixed by 12:40 p.m.

One of the escalators from the gates to the bus exit was out of order at the McLean Metro Station even as the Silver Line opened Saturday. The working escalator was blocked off so bus passengers could climb the stationary escalator.

Troy Osborne, station manager at McLean, didn’t know why the running escalator was barricaded and the non-running one open. He said as soon as they realized there was a problem, “we jumped right on it.” The escalators were out for about 40 minutes, he said.

And at the Tysons Corner station at 12:06 p.m., one of the fare card machines was already jammed.

“It broke already?” a Metro employee yelled out as he opened up the machine for repairs.

Another machine broke down at the same station at 12:50 p.m.; a maintenance worker was on hand to fix it right away.

– Pat Sullivan and Illeana Najarro

  • Rachel Weiner
  • ·

  • Rachel Weiner
  • ·

“Welcome aboard the Silver Line!” Metro General Manager Richard Sarles declared, introducing a long list of speakers at the dedication ceremony in a tent packed with several hundred attendees. “It’s time to ride!”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx called it “an exciting day not only for Virginia but for the greater D.C. area as well as for America.”

He referred to the decades long process of building medieval cathedrals, the fact that those involved in the beginning weren’t always around at the end. Building the Silver Line involved decades of planning and political fights and five years of construction.

“What I’m reminded of is that the work of transportation is really the work of generations,” Foxx said. “And if we’re not putting those cornerstones in place as a nation, we’re not building for the generations to come afterward. So this is a time to celebrate the voices of yea sounding louder than the voices of no.”

He referred to numerous proposed transportation projects bottled up in Congress, awaiting funding, and urged Congress to free up the money, noting that the federal government’s $900 million investment in the Silver Line’s first phase is projected to spur billions in economic development.

“This is a win for America. And we need more wins like it.”

Read more from the opening remarks.

– Paul Duggan

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