Officials at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority announced Monday additional delays to completion of the first phase of the $5.6 billion Silver Line rail extension.
Pat Nowakowski, executive director of the rail project, said that additional tests related to the Automatic Train Control System need to be completed before the project can be turned over to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. He did not offer a timeline for when the tests would be completed except to say it would take several weeks.
“This is why we test,” he said. “Our guiding principle throughout this process has been ‘safety first’ and we remain committed to that principal. We will not do anything that might compromise safety or create unsafe conditions for the traveling public.”
This is the second delay in recent months. In July, MWAA officials announced an eight-week delay in completion of the project, which pushed the original timeline from September to November. At last month’s Metrop0litan Washington Airports Authority’s board meeting, Nowakowski said it appeared the first phase would be turned over to WMATA by the end of November.
Nowakowski said recent testing identified needed software modifications to the Automatic Train Control System. The contractor is in the process of making the changes to ensure the control system performs properly. In June, the head of the Federal Transit Administration raised concerns about unauthorized changes made by the contractor to the control system, one of the key safety mechanisms on the Silver Line and the same system whose failure caused the 2009 Red Line crash that killed nine people.
Once complete, the changes have to be approved by WMATA and the Airports Authority. MWAA is overseeing construction of the rail line — one of the largest infrastructure projects in the country, which will include four stops in Tysons and one in Reston. One the first phase is completed, it will be turned over to WMATA for additional testing.
Any delay in passenger service could be expensive for Metro. Each month passenger service is delayed could cost Metro an estimated $2 million to $3 million in revenue, officials said.