Even so, Stark said careful analysis of the latest data indicates work on the rail line and a rail yard in Loudoun County will be complete in late summer.
“We feel this one is going to stick, otherwise we would not have made the announcement,” Stark said.
Substantial completion is the point at which the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is overseeing the project, certifies construction is done and the rail line is ready to be turned over to Metro for testing and training. Metro will follow its own evaluation process for the line, one that could take months, before it accepts full control of it.
“Today’s announcement enables Metro to begin planning and budgeting for the start of service in early 2022,” Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld said in a statement. “As MWAA achieves substantial completion, Metro will be testing, conducting system safety certification, and recruiting and training employees to get ready for passenger service.”
Officials at Capital Rail Constructors said Friday they welcomed the announcement.
“We are encouraged that MWAA has established a date to turn the system over to [Metro],” Keith Couch, project director for CRC, said in a statement.
Work on the second phase of the Silver Line originally was expected to wrap up in July 2018. Months after construction began, MWAA’s decision to follow new state and federal rules regarding storm-water management — rather than choosing to be grandfathered in under previous regulations — delayed the project by 13 months and added $137 million to its cost. Officials then expressed confidence the work would be done by August 2019.
Unlike the first phase, where sections of track had to be built over the Capital Beltway and a tunnel constructed in the middle of Tysons — one of the busiest retail and office centers in the nation — work on the second phase was expected to be relatively straightforward.
However, problems soon surfaced: cracks in concrete structures, defective rail ties and a rail-yard platform that had to be ripped out because it was built to the wrong dimensions.
Metro officials, who will be responsible for operating and managing the rail line, watched with growing alarm as problems with the $5.8 billion project continued to mount. The transit agency has spent more than $100,000 on outside contractors to evaluate work on the Silver Line.
In 2018, project officials discovered problems with hundreds of precast concrete panels installed at five of the six stations being built for the line’s second phase. An investigation determined the concrete did not meet quality standards and the defect could lead to water seepage and premature deterioration of the station walls.
A month later, a whistleblower lawsuit alleged that the company that manufactured the panels, Universal Concrete, had falsified quality reports. One person pleaded guilty in connection with the case, and the company eventually settled for $1 million.
Later that year, Wiedefeld tapped Metro’s inspector general to conduct his own analysis of the project.
Geoffrey A. Cherrington identified problems with track work and concrete structures. He also faulted MWAA’s oversight of the two main contractors — Capital Rail Constructors, which is building the main rail line, and Hensel Phelps, which is building the rail yard — and said the airports authority often failed to follow through on issues raised by Metro. Cherrington urged Metro’s leadership not to accept control of the project unless it received assurances that all issues had been resolved.
In response, MWAA said at the time it was “committed to delivering a quality rail line that will serve the traveling public for years to come.”
Stark said Friday that despite the previous issues, he expects the second phase of the project to stay within its $2.8 billion budget. The rail project is one of the most expensive in the nation but one that Virginia officials fought for years to build, seeing it as critical to economic growth in Northern Virginia.
While Virginia, MWAA and Fairfax and Loudoun counties are all contributing, nearly half of the project’s costs are being paid by users of the Dulles Toll Road.
The project’s first phase, which included four stops in Tysons and one in Reston, was completed six months late and more than $220 million over budget. It opened in July 2014.
Phase 2 will add six stops and provide a rail link to Dulles International Airport. The second phase also will extend Metrorail service into Loudoun County.