MWAA: More Problems May Further Delay Silver Line Opening

Putting Finishing Touches on Wiehle-Reston East Metro stationIf the contractor building Metro’s Silver Line does not fix ongoing problems and satisfactorily turn the project over to Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority by April 9, it will face fines of $25,000 a day.

After a tense MWAA board meeting on Wednesday, it looks as though contractor Dulles Transit Partners may be hard pressed to make that deadline.

It was revealed Wednesday that there are still significant problems with the 11-mile rail extension, which will run from East Falls Church to Reston’s Wiehle Avenue. Problems range from speakers in the stations that are not up to fire code to continuing issues with the Automatic Train Control System.

DTP told MWAA on Feb. 7 that it had reached “substantial completion” on the $2.8 billion project. However, after a 15-day review period, MWAA found issues in 7 of 12 areas, including performance issues with the ATC system, water leaks in buildings, and elevator and escalator problems.

If the work is not finished starting April 10, DTP would face a $25,000-a-day penalty until the work is done.  If the project is not completed 92 days after that April date, the contractor would have to pay roughly $2.3 million in fines, plus an additional $75,000 a day.

Ultimately, if the project is delayed more than six months from that April date, DTP could be required to pay more than $9 million total. Under the terms of the contract, the payments are capped at $60 million.

“Our goal is to have this wrapped up by April 9, before fines set in,” MWAA President and CEO Jack Potter said Wednesday.

Pat Nowakowski, executive director for the Dulles Corridor Rail Association, said there is no estimated opening date for the Silver Line and there is no projected date for when DTP will be done fixing the issues. He said “when the contractor submits paperwork this time around, they are working to be certain the project is complete.”

WTOP reports that the entire speaker system and the ATC system may have to be replaced, which could delay the project even further. WTOP also says that the MWAA Board is assembling a legal team in case the contractor misses another deadline. MWAA officials said the cost of the corrections will be covered by a contingency fund.

While no completion date was ever given by MWAA, original estimates were that the line would be completed by August or September 2013 and the first passengers would ride by the end of 2013. That later was pushed into early 2014. In January, the original problem with the ATC was discovered, delaying completion until at least spring.

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