The third rails along the tracks in the middle of the Dulles highway are being energized. Over the next few months, drivers may spot train cars testing new systems. Workers are putting up windscreens on pedestrian bridges and preparing elevators and escalators to carry passengers into new stations.
What we’ve known during four years of construction as the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project is becoming the Silver Line.
As it emerges from its construction cocoon this year, it will become evident the project is more than steel rails linking Metro’s East Falls Church station with a terminal in the Reston area. This is a whole new transportation system, shaking up the way people get around Northern Virginia.
Project managers say the job is almost 90 percent done. Much of the remaining work focuses on the five new stations: four in Tysons and one in the middle of the Dulles Toll Road and access highway at Wiehle Avenue. The pedestrian bridges have been installed over Routes 123 and 7 and over the toll road.
Project officials say they expect to turn the line over to Metro in late summer so tht transit staffers can do their testing before the line opens.
The Silver Line will have some effect on most other methods of travel in Northern Virginia. Last year, Metro reduced service on the Blue Line to make room for the Silver Line trains that will be heading through Rosslyn into downtown Washington and Maryland, and more changes are coming.
Some commuters who live on the west side of the D.C. region will head for the new parking garage under construction north of the Wiehle Avenue station rather than drive to Orange Line stations such as West Falls Church.
Many others who board buses to the trains will be given different choices, possibly because their old routes have been deemed obsolete.
Throughout Northern Virginia, the plan is to take advantage of the new rail line by adjusting some bus routes, eliminating others, changing the frequency of service and using the surplus buses to enhance other routes.
Nowhere are the bus changes bigger than in Fairfax County, home to all five of the new stations.
The Fairfax Connector conducted a round of public meetings after unveiling its original plan for realigning routes to match them with the new stations.
The staff plans a second round this month to show revisions in the original pattern, which were based on the concerns of some bus riders and some neighborhoods.
For example, some commuters who take express buses to the Pentagon and Crystal City said they didn’t want to give up that one-seat ride for the sake of taking a bus to a train. The revised plan preserves their express bus in the form of Route 599, which would link Reston with the Pentagon and Crystal City, said Ellen Kamilakis, spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.
The complete bus plan is open for discussion at each meeting, but an emphasis will be placed on service changes in the vicinity of the meeting site.
This is the schedule. All discussions except the online chat are from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
●April 15, Reston Community Center Hunter Woods, 2310 Colts Neck Rd., Reston.
●April 17, Herndon Council Chambers Building, 765 Lynn St., Herndon.
●April 18, 2 p.m., Ask Fairfax! online discussion at www.fairfax
●April 18, Reston Community Center Lake Anne, JoAnn Rose Library, 1609A Washington Plaza, Reston.
●April 22, Westbriar Elementary School, 1741 Pine Valley Dr., Vienna.
●April 23, McLean High School, 1633 Davidson Rd., McLean.
●April 24, Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library, 7584 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church.
Metrobus and other suburban bus systems also are planning to adapt to the new rail line, hoping that commuters will follow.
The Metrobus routes adjusted to serve the Tysons Corner area include the 1C, 2A, 2B, 2C, 2G, 2T, 3A-E, 3T, 15K, 15L, 15M, 23A, 23C, 24T, 28A, 28T and 28X. For example, the 28A, a Leesburg Pike service, will be rerouted to serve Tysons. The 28T, a Falls Church-Tysons service, will be discontinued and replaced by the 28A/X and the Fairfax Connector Tysons Circulator, a system that will serve the Tysons area, including the new stations.
Loudoun County express buses serving the West Falls Church station will move to the Wiehle Avenue station, where they will stop at bus bays on the toll road ramp.
Prince William County express buses traveling to the Vienna and West Falls Church stations will reroute to the Tysons Central station.
Metrobus 5A to Dulles Airport will remain unchanged. The Washington Flyer buses will move from West Falls Church to the Wiehle Avenue station.
The addition of the Silver Line will mean that three lines will be sharing an east-west tunnel through downtown Washington. Metrorail is planning to operate on this schedule.
Silver: Trains will run between Wiehle Avenue and Largo Town Center every six minutes at peak periods and every 12 minutes midday.
Orange: Trains will run between Vienna and New Carrollton every six minutes at peak periods and every 12 minutes midday. Rush Plus trains between Vienna and Largo Town Center will be discontinued.
Blue: Trains will run between Franconia-Springfield and Largo Town Center every 12 minutes at peak periods and midday.
Green: Trains will run between Greenbelt and Branch Avenue every six minutes at peak periods and every 12 minutes midday.
Yellow A: Trains will run between Huntington and Mount Vernon every six minutes at peak periods. This is a rush-hour-only service.
Yellow B: Trains will run between Huntington and Fort Totten every 12 minutes. This is an off-peak service.
Yellow Plus: Trains will run between Franconia-Springfield and Greenbelt every 12 minutes at peak periods.
Red: Trains will run between Shady Grove and Glenmont every three to six minutes during peak periods and every six to 12 minutes midday.