Silver Line Testing to Begin, But No Opening Date Set

Wiehle Reston East MetroMetropolitan Washington Airports Authority officials said on Wednesday that a software problem has been resolved and that they will begin testing it on the Silver Line by the end of the month.

MWAA officials have previously said that once the rail is turned over for testing, it will take about 90 days — barring any glitches uncovered — before the Silver Line sees its first passengers.

Phase 1 of the $5.6 billion Silver Line will run from East Falls Church to Reston’s Wiehle Avenue. Phase 2, on which construction should begin soon, will open in about five years. Phase 2 will run from Wiehle to an additional Reston stop at Reston Parkway, then to Dulles International Airport and into Loudoun County.

MWAA said in late November that it had found an issue with the automatic train control system software. That issue caused a delay  in the timetable — the rail line’s second announced one in six months. Some local officials such as Sen. Mark Warner questioned the setbacks and pointed out the fiscal impact of delays on the Commonwealth and on Metro.

MWAA CEO Jack Potter told The Washington Post on Wednesday that officials will conduct a “simulated service” exercise in which Silver Line trains will run at the same time weekend Metro service is being run. The test will likely be run the weekend of Jan. 25.

MWAA had never set an official opening date, but the original testing period was to have begun in August (for a potential December opening). In June, that was amended to November. In November, of course, the software issue was discovered. If there are no issues found in testing, the Silver Line opening now would be in April.

Pat Nowakowski, project executive director for the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project , has repeatedly said safety is the top priority.

“Our guiding principle throughout this process has been ‘safety first’ and we remain committed to that principal,” he aid in November. “We will not do anything that might compromise safety or create unsafe conditions for the traveling public.”

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