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Silver Line Contractor: Issues Nearly Fixed, Project At “Substantial Completion” Again

by Karen Goff — April 8, 2014 at 6:43 pm 1 Comment

Putting Finishing Touches on Wiehle-Reston East Metro stationThe contractor constructing Metro’s Silver Line says it is ready to submit for “substantial completion” of the project again — which could come as soon as Wednesday.

Wednesday also happens to be April 9, the day Reston-based Bechtel Corporation and subsidiary Dulles Transit Partners would have to start paying fines of $25,000 a day until the job is done.

Bechtel Corporation says it is waiting for results late Tuesday then will determine if it will submit Wednesday.

“We are very pleased with the progress and moving the Silver Line one step closer to full operation,” Bechtel officials said in a statement.

Dulles Transit Partners originally said on Feb. 7 that substantial completion on the $2.7 billion rail extension from East Falls Church to Reston’s Wiehle Avenue had been reached.

Substantial completion is the point at which they feel their job is done and ready to be turned over to Metro. Metro would then have a 90-day period to conduct its own testing.

However, part of the handoff involves Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority conducting its own checklist, and in late February MWAA  found issues in 7 of 12 areas, ranging from leaks to problems with the automatic train control system. It was revealed at a recent MWAA Board meeting that speakers in all five stations have to be reinstalled, and there is a cable issue in the Tysons tunnel.

According to DTP’s contract, the work is not finished starting April 10, DTP faces 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 March 19.

Former Congressman Tom Davis, a MWAA board member, told WUSA9-TV that the most important thing is that the rail line is 100 percent safe and ready to go before opening.

“Hopefully, we can meet the April 9 deadline and it will be acceptable and we could move on,” Davis said. “But we want the public to know that when this transit system opens, it is going to be Grade A reader for business. It is going to be safe and it is going to work efficiently.”

But Davis also said if DTP has to pay fines, it could benefit the transportation system.

“If it is not ready, I think the airports authority can make some money on it,” Davis told WUSA. “

While a opening date for the Silver Line was never set, officials had hoped to finish testing last September for a possible December opening. But delays were announced last summer, then in November when the tracking system issues were discovered.

After the March setback, officials are no longer estimated when the turnover may be as DTP works to correct the problems. However, a source told WTOP last week that the Silver Line may open by July 4.

  • Terry Maynard

    The line is “substantially complete” when the MWAA project manager says that the contractor’s work meets contractual standards.
    “Substantially complete” is not when the contractor says the work is done–as it did in late February and clearly failed in the project manager’s review.
    It is also not “substantially complete” when, for pointless political reasons, the MWAA Board of Directors (including Tom Davis) WANTS it to be complete before the next MWAA Board meeting on April 16. (Please note that MWAA has two weeks–14 days–to inspect the system after the contractor says it believes the line is substantially complete, which means it could delay its decision until after the Board meeting. Heck, the contractor isn’t even ready as of this April 8th writing–eight days before the Board meeting–to say the work is complete.)
    The problem now for the MWAA Silver Line Project Management team is that is being squeezed on both sides–the contractor who wants to avoid fines and MWAA’s Board which wants to avoid the perception MWAA has managed this project poorly and so has set an artificial deadline to declare its satisfactory completion. This does not bode well for a true satisfaction of all the terms of the construction contract before MWAA declares the project “substantially complete” and turns it over to WMATA for further testing and training before full operations begin.
    In these circumstances, the squeeze play on the project management team will put more pressure on WMATA to make sure the public can be assured of a safe and reliable Silver Line before it goes into operation. In the current circumstances, it makes little sense for WMATA to rush to that readiness judgment in less than the 90 days it has to reach a decision.
    We’ve waited decades for the Silver Line. We can wait another few weeks if necessary to make sure we have a Metrorail line that is safe and efficient.

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