The Washington Post

First Silver Line test run complete, but no results or service start date yet

Tracks are seen stretching out from the McLean Metro station in this Nov. 4, 2013, photo. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Officials say they are analyzing data collected from the first full test run of Silver Line train service conducted over the weekend but still have no firm date for when work on the $5.6 billion rail project will be completed.

“Rail project officials, the contractor Dulles Transit Partners and WMATA are now tabulating, evaluating and analyzing all the information obtained from the demonstration,’’ officials with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, said in an e-mailed statement. “There is a huge amount of data and information to be dealt with and discussed by all the parties involved. When those evaluations are completed, we look forward to discussing the findings.”

Officials would not say when the analysis would be completed.

People familiar with the test run said it turned up a number glitches, including ones linked to the system’s automatic train control system, a key safety component that controls train movement and speed and ensures proper spacing between trains — an issue that had delayed completion of the project for several months. The individuals asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

In at least one instance during Saturday evening’s testing, they said, a train encountered a red signal, indicating that it should stop, yet still received speed commands directing it to move forward. Marcia McAllister, spokeswoman for the rail project, said officials would not comment beyond their e-mail statement.

But whether this and other issues that surfaced during the test are considered minor glitches that can easily be addressed or are signs of more serious problems that could result in additional delays remains to be seen.

As part of the test conducted in the overnight hours of Jan. 25, officials ran 10 trains along 11 miles of track and through the five stations that make up the first phase of the Silver Line. The first phase of the much-anticipated rail line has four stops in Tysons and one in Reston at Wiehle Avenue.

The automatic train control system is critical to trains’ safe operation. It was the failure of this system to detect the presence of a train on the tracks that was blamed in part for the 2009 Red Line crash, which killed nine people and injured dozens of others.

Software problems linked to the ATC system forced MWAA to delay handing over the Silver Line project to Metro in November, as originally planned. It was the second time in six months that MWAA, which is building the rail line, had to delay the planned turnover. While MWAA is overseeing construction of the rail line, it will be managed and operated by Metro.

Earlier this month, Pat Nowakowski, executive director of the rail project said that enough of the software issues tied to the ATC system had been dealt with for this past weekend’s test to be completed, but he acknowledged that some issues still remain.

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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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