Metro General Manager Richard Sarles said Monday he hopes to announce “a firm date” next week for the opening of the Silver Line this summer, bringing long-awaited rail service to the Tysons Corner and Reston areas.
A week after the transit agency’s operations chief complained publicly that the Silver Line’s builders had fallen behind schedule with final “punch-list” work items, Sarles indicated in a conference call with reporters that the contractors had picked up their pace in recent days.
“There are about seven or eight items that are scheduled to be completed this week,” he said. “If those items are completed this week — and fair progress is made regarding the rest of the items — I will be prepared [June 23] to give everyone in the region the firm date for the start of revenue service.”
“Revenue service” is Metro-speak for trains carrying fare-paying riders. The $2.9 billion first phase of the much-delayed Silver Line project is nearly 12 miles of track and includes a station at Wiehle Avenue in Reston and four in Tysons Corner.
In a June 9 conference call, Rob Troup, Metro’s deputy general manager for operations, said the contractors were “behind schedule on approximately half” of the 33 remaining punch-list items. “Does it concern us?” Troup said at the time. “There’s no question it concerns us.”
The project, being overseen by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, is being built by a group of contractors led by construction giant Bechtel. Troup’s public jab at the contractors, known collectively as Dulles Transit Partners, seemed intended to get them back on schedule.
Troup’s boss, Sarles, was upbeat in this week’s conference call, saying Metro had been “given some revised completion dates” for the punch-list items, which Sarles said was a hopeful sign.
The revised completion dates involve “the seven or eight items” set to be finished this week, Sarles said. “So if they live up to that, and don’t fall behind, that gives me confidence that they’re back on track.”
Said Sarles: “When you set a firm date, it’s based on progress you’ve made up to that point. Now we’re getting to the point where, if the work is done this week that is scheduled to be done, then my level of confidence will be high enough to establish a firm date for revenue operations.”
He added, in a note of caution: “If the work is done this week, then I will be confident. I’m not confident until I see the work is done.”
The Tri-State Oversight Committee, a safety watchdog group that oversees Metro’s operations, has conducted its mandatory review of the Silver Line and “given us a preliminary report, which we will be responding to,” Sarles said. “We’ve been moving ahead with our own familiarization [with the Silver Line] for maintenance folks and operations folks. . . . And we are continuing to do outreach to make people aware of the system. Those things are all going according to schedule.”
For weeks, Sarles and others at Metro have declined to give an opening date , saying they did not want to do so until they were confident about the construction issues.
Officials also updated reporters on plans for bus service, which will be critical for transporting Silver Line riders because Wiehle is the only station that will have parking.
Metro Assistant General Manager Jack Requa said the bulk of Silver Line bus service will be provided by the Fairfax Connector. Still, Metrobus will serve two of the five Silver Line stations — McLean and Tysons Corner. The new bus lines started earlier this year. As part of the shift, Metro eliminated two routes and changed seven others. The eliminated routes will be picked up by the Fairfax Connector, he said.
Lori Aratani contributed to this report.