Innovation Station, part of Phase II of Metro's Silver Line expansion to Dulles International Airport and beyond, under construction July 26, 2017 in Herndon, VA. (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Who wants to run Metro’s Silver Line?

Apparently, a lot of folks.

The transit agency announced that it is extending the deadline for companies interested in managing the second phase of the Silver Line once construction is complete.

Metro recently held a pre-proposal conference and four-day tour of the rail line’s operations that attracted interest from 70 people representing two dozen companies. Another 115 people took part in the conference through a virtual meeting room.

In addition to U.S.-based companies, businesses from Canada, France, Italy and Japan also expressed interest. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, which represents Metro workers and which has been vocal in its opposition to privatizing rail operations, also expressed interest in the process.

The second phase of the Silver Line will extend service to Dulles International Airport and into Loudoun County. It is expected to open for passenger service in 2020. The first phase, which included five stations — four in Tysons Corner and on in Reston — opened in 2014.

In September, Metro issued its first request for proposals for companies interested in running the rail extension. Officials suggested that such a deal could save taxpayers millions of dollars over time. The savings could be a boon for the cash-strapped transit agency. The transit agency had issued a request for information in January.

“Competitive contracting is one tool to hold down pension cost growth, while providing quality service for customers,” Metro’s General Manger Paul J. Wiedefeld said in a statement that accompanied the RFP.

Existing union contracts restrict Metro’s ability to privatize many of its operations, but the agreement does allow the transit agency to seek help from outside contractors when considering how to manage operations on new segments of the system.

Metro’s original deadline for proposals was next month and it planned to award the contract in spring 2019. The new deadline has been extended to 5 p.m. on March 18, 2019.