Silver Line Phase 2 Opening Delayed 13 Months

by Karen Goff April 27, 2015 at 2:45 pm 1,935 22 Comments

First Silver Line train pulls in to Wiehle-Reston East/Credit: Mike Heffner, Vita Images The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said on Monday that design modifications for safety and reliability of Metro’s Silver Line will delay the opening of Phase 2 for about 13 months.

Phase 2, which will run from Wiehle-Reston East to Dulles International Airport and into Loudoun County, was most recently projected to open in late 2018. This means it might not open until late 2019.

MWAA constructed Phase 1 of the Silver Line, which opened in July 2014 (about six months behind schedule). Phase 1 has five stops from Tysons Corner to Reston. It is also building Phase 2, which is projected to cost $2.7 billion and will expand the line from Wiehle-Reston East to Reston Town Center, Herndon, Route 28, Dulles International Airport and Ashburn.

More than 150 modifications have been made and integrated into the design for Phase 2, says MWAA. Many of these modifications parallel design changes made in the latter stages of Phase 1 and will enhance the safety and reliability of Phase 2.  The modifications, when combined with associated weather and construction delays, have extended the Phase 2 construction schedule by about 13 months, MWAA officials said.

“Over 100 design changes were made in Phase 1 — a large number of them ordered in the final months of the construction process — requiring additional design, engineering, construction, management and oversight work,” Charles Stark, the Airports Authority’s executive director of the Silver Line project, said in a statement.

“For consistency, many of these same safety and reliability modifications needed to be incorporated into Phase 2 of the project, which then impacted the schedule.”

MWAA announced late last year that the entire 11-mile Phase 2 would need changes to comply with new stormwater regulations.

Meanwhile, MWAA said remaining work done to finalize Phase 1 of the project will add $76 million, or about 2.6 percent, to the previously announced Phase 1 cost of $2.8 billion.

The new Phase 1 cost of $2.982 billion remains within the original federally approved Phase 1 budget and toll rates on the Dulles Toll Road will not be affected, MWAA said. Toll rates will remain at current levels through 2018.

From MWAA:

A recently concluded global settlement with the construction contractor for Phase 1, Dulles Transit Partners, along with the resolution of other outstanding matters – including the close-out of Virginia permits which allowed Phase 1 work within Routes 7 and 123 in Tysons Corner, and the execution of contracts to supplement certain Phase 1 work, as required by WMATA – has allowed the Airports Authority to project a final Phase 1 close-out cost of $2.982 billion, which represents an additional cost of about $76 million, and to move to the final close-out of the Phase 1 project.

The majority of the remaining work on Phase 1, which opened for business in July 2014, will be completed by the end of this year, including the delivery of 64 new rail cars at a cost of $189.4 million to expand the Metrorail fleet.  Final close-out of Phase 1 is expected to occur in 2016.

“The Phase 1 global settlement is an important milestone in the Silver Line project, following its successful launch in July 2014,” Airports Authority CEO Jack Potter said.  “It gives us closure on the most substantial cost component of Phase 1, ensures we will achieve the project’s federal budget targets and allows us to maintain the existing toll schedule for the Dulles Toll Road.”

The ultimate impact of the Phase 1 additional costs may be reduced or even eliminated if the contingency budget for Phase 2 of the Silver Line project is not fully used and the total project, both Phases 1 and 2, comes in at or under the overall project budget.

The Airports Authority also announced an update to the construction schedule for Phase 2 of the Silver Line project, which will extend service from the terminus of Phase 1 in Reston, Virginia, through Washington Dulles International Airport and into Loudoun County, Virginia.

Potter said, “The added costs arising from Phase 2 design modifications will remain within the Phase 2 contingency budget of $550 million and will have no effect on the toll rates on the Dulles Toll Road. With our project partners, we are committed to limiting future design changes. Phase 1 is already experiencing ridership beyond expectations, and significant construction and development is underway along its path in the Dulles Corridor. We are confident that Phase 2 will experience similar success.”

  • cosmo

    Is anyone really surprised by this?

  • Thomas Day

    Big projects are hard. No explanation required.

  • RestonResident

    I wish they would break the work out into more phases. One has to think they could get the Reston and Herndon station done in the next couple of years, then do the airport station, and then do the Ashburn stations. This all or nothing approach is going to end up with more delays. If they had done this in Phase 1, they would have realized they had safety issues much sooner and could have completed the rest of Phase 1 correctly.

    • JoeInReston

      Would love to get the Metro out to the airport so all the Loudounites won’t conjest Reston.

      • RestonRider

        But then I won’t get a seat on the car in the morning 🙁

    • vdiv

      Always thought first phase should be to Tyson’s Corner, second to the Airport, third to Leesburg. Also they could have pipelined them instead of building one after the other.

      Second and third phases should have been commuter trains not metro as the cost is really obscene for a city-based transport to cover such a distance. A power substation every mile or so?

      • Greg

        You are right. In fact, the entire thing from WFC to wherever should have been light or commuter rail. It could have been done much faster, at a fraction of the cost and gone farther into the suburbs. But Ken Plum (and others) insisted on a very costly single-car ride, sharing an already at-capacity orange line rather than having the poor commuters have to transfer at WFC.

        • JCSuperstar

          You really believe politicians (red, blue, purple) have a hand in actual project delays and overruns. Unbelievable.

          “Navy Secretary Ray Mabus confirmed Thursday that the cost overrun for the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford is projected to reach $1 billion, bringing the ship’s total cost to some $12 billion — but said it’s on track to be delivered on schedule.”

          • Greg

            You need better specs, or peepers, pops. I said nothing about pols and delays.

            Of course it’s unbelieveable but you are the one who stated it. #smfh.

            Nevertheless, in this case, the delays are alleged to arise from water and design issues — which, of course, are directly sourced to politicians. Not to digress, but no one other than a politician (or a gaggle of them thereto) could “design” something as ugly as the silver line.

            The facts, however, speak for themselves. Socialist comrade Kenny has been pushing Dulles Metro for decades and it’s way over budget and far from on time. Metro no nuclear-powered aircraft carrier It is ancient technology at best and should have been completed far sooner far less expensively.

          • JCSuperstar

            You are so jaded you didn’t even read my reply. You really believe Mr. Plum is responsible for this?

          • Mookie Taylor

            If Plum has been pushing it for decades, then he has been a voice of reason for decades. It is incredible that there is not metro service from Dulles to DC. If it had been built decades ago before the explosion of suburban sprawl, it would have been cheaper and easier. It should have been put in when they built the toll road.

          • Greg

            There were many plans over the decades to bring mass transit to Dulles. From buses to dedicated bus rapid transit to light rail to commuter rail. All of them would have long been in place by now at a fraction of the cost without any toll increases. And, in fact, the grand bargain on building the separate parallel toll road was that it was to be free of tolls once it (and not everything else it’s being burdened to pay for) was paid for… but we digress.

            The issue with decades-long missing mass transit to Dulles was always those who insisted, cheer-led by Plum and his band of socialist cronies, that it be heavy rail (aka metro) — a technology that, at less than 40 years of age and most of it buried and not exposed to the elements, has not held up well and is consuming nearly a billion dollars a year just to maintain.

            In any case, and despite a direct two-lane freeway to and from Dulles to the Beltway and city from the beginning, Dulles has nearly always struggled to compete with National and BWI. But for a series of low-fare, but rapidly failed, domestic carriers, those that run Dulles have not been successful in growing it much beyond International traffic, despite Dulles’ own decades-long and billions of dollars worth of renovations and expansions.

            Cargo mostly bypasses Dulles for better airports. Another missed opportunity occurred when those in power (including Plum) pushed United’s maintenance facility away to some place in the flyover.

            Yes, Dulles briefly had Condorde, Mark Air, Piedmont, National, Presidential, Independence, Braniff, and many others — all of which are in the dust bin. Sadly, we still have the mobile lounges — which should long ago have been jettisoned back to the hippie Brutalist era from which they were conceived.

    • Rational Reston

      Considering that it wasn’t done as a whole, it’s actually broken up properly.

      The end of Phase 1 at Weihle does not make sense, and that is a good thing, that meant that the politicians cannot back away from completing the task with the Silver Line at a non-logical stopping point. If the end of Phase 1 were Tysons, they would likely declare victory and there’s probably little chance of them approving further construction.

      There’s actually a fair amount of Phase 2 construction going on at the airport and beyond. If they’re smart they will build FROM Loudon to Reston, for the same reasons as above, it means that the ‘powers that be’ can’t kill it.

      Having many small portions would mean that the engineering costs would skyrocket from portion to portion, the changes that happened to Phase 1 were largely a result of the Red Line accident that affected the whole system along with other lessons that they’ve learned along the way.

  • JCSuperstar

    Not unusual, still within overall budget.

    • RAmember2

      Regrettably, it’s not only “non unusual,” its standard operating procedure for Silver Line construction over the last six years–late and above budget.

      • JCSuperstar

        Get real, and get off your tiny high horse. Metro is no different than any other very large capital project.

        Studies that compare the actual outcomes of capital-investment projects, mergers and acquisitions, and market entries with managers’ original expectations for those ventures show a strong tendency toward over optimism. — Journal of Financial Economics,

        An analysis of start-up ventures in a wide range of industries found that more than 80 percent failed to achieve their marketshare target. — RAND Journal of Economics,

  • Greg

    Construction delays? Where is this construction?

    How is there going to be any more storm water? It’s four rails of metal atop existing land, and a a few quonset hut stations. The parking garages? Two sets of which are already built?

  • joe heflin

    Particularly interesting given the recent appreciation in prices of condos in and close to Town Center. There is greater appreciation there than elsewhere in Reston. (3% per year east of the Toll Road.) As I type this much of immediate Town Center is $450-550 a square foot, which is up approximately 30+% from three years ago. I believe that the price is going to go back down. The sense of a year or two down the road is now gone-owning in Town Center is not the same when the subway is still years away. It will also become interesting in the leasing of space. And the renting of imaginatively expensive apartments.

    • Greg

      Probably right on. But what about the Metro, expectation or reality, drove those prices so high?

      • joe heflin

        We went to a public auction of the condo next to the Westin three or four years ago. An 1150-1200 square foot two bedroom condo went for $285,000. Today it is in the low 400’s. I believe part of the reason is the anticipation of the Metro opening.

        Perhaps the real irony in this is that Northwestern Mutual will probably back off from their pursuit of the golf course for now. There is just no market for any development there until there is a subway stop a few hundred yards away-and open. 2020 or later, even with several years to pursue this, is too far out. There is also the very real consideration that 2020 can become 2023 or 2024.

        And that is the real problem-the prospect of the Metro opening is now pushed down the road for part of Reston. For many of us it is, practically, no longer on the table.

    • RAmember2

      And the number of people who can afford homes in Town Center is going down at about the same rate as their value is increasing.

      Not exactly the Reston vision!

  • Malcol6

    Now that 5 calendar quarters have transpired, is it now time for an update for an estimate of when Phase 2 is to complete, enough for riders to use? From July 2018 (initial contract) to 13 months minimum delay (August 2019) as reported by RestonNow April 27, 2015 of MWAA news release… Should MWAA be pressed to update the public?


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