Map of the impacted section of the Dulles Airport Access Highway (via MWAA)

Approximately seven miles of the Dulles International Airport Access Highway going westbound will be closed this weekend (Sept. 11 and 12) for maintenance work on pedestrian bridges.

Starting just east of Reston at mile marker 8.3, traffic will be diverted to the left lane of the Dulles Toll Road. Drivers will be able to enter the airport access road again at mile marker 1.7, near the Route 28 toll plaza and right past the soon-to-be-opened Innovation Center Station.

Ramps at mile marker 9 and 3.3 for the westbound portion of the airport access highway will also be closed.

The closures will run from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day.

All work is weather-dependent, though weather does not appear it will be a factor this weekend.

This work is being done by contractor Capital Rail Constructors as part of its preparations for the opening of Silver Line Phase 2, a Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority official says.

A weekend was chosen to conduct the maintenance work in the hopes of minimizing the closure’s impact on traffic, the MWAA official notes.

Photo via MWAA

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(Updated at 9:05 a.m. on 8/5/21) A new report reveals that there’s significant disagreement between the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) and its contractor, Capital Rail Constructors (CRC), about when Silver Line Phase 2 is expected to be completed.

Released publicly yesterday (Aug 3), MWAA’s June monthly report on the project says that CRC is forecasting a substantial completion date of April 21, 2022 for the second phase of Metro’s Silver Line extension.

That is more than seven months after Labor Day 2021, when MWAA had hoped to hand over the project to Metro, though officials already admitted last month that they will miss that deadline.

However, in its monthly report, MWAA says it “disagrees” with the timeline laid out by CRC and believes the remaining work that needs to be completed “can be accomplished in significantly less time.”

The airports authority believes the work can be finished “within Q4 2021,” according to the report.

About six months is needed between substantial completion and for the system to open to complete testing and “pre-revenue activities,” according to a Metro presentation from last month.

This means that, if the project follows CRC’s timeline, Silver Line Phase 2 won’t officially open until late October 2022 at the earliest, a year-long delay compared to what was announced earlier in 2021.

Even MWAA’s preferred timeline would still push the start of service back to May or June 2022.

MWAA spokesperson Marcia McAllister says the authority remains “hopeful” that the contractor can complete the necessary work by the end of this year. She explained that both the contractor and MWAA make timeline estimates based on “their own knowledge base, but just come up with different results.”

“We will continue to work with them, talk to them, and encourage them to speed up the work they are doing,” McAllister said.

Keith Couch, project executive for Capital Rail Constructors, told Reston Now that the contractor group is open to discussing with MWAA about how to move the project quicker and get it done by late this year.

“We are in the testing phase of the project which is very dependent on coordinating and finalizing testing with MWAA and WMATA, including scheduling of the next outage at Wiehle Avenue and the review of test reports,” Couch wrote in a statement. “While based on the information available at this time our schedule shows an April 2022 substantial completion date, there are opportunities through collaboration with MWAA and WMATA to improve on that date and complete the project by later this year.”

One of the tasks that still needs to be completed is the full connection of Phase 2 to Silver Line Phase 1, which opened in 2014. The Wiehle-Reston East Metro station was shut down for a weekend in June so crews could work on the linkage, but the task wasn’t completed.

MWAA has said that an additional shutdown is needed to complete that work. Dates for that shutdown have yet to be announced.

McAllister says MWAA is working with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to find dates that work for all, but the two agencies have yet to make a determination on when the second Wiehle station shutdown might happen.

According to MWAA’s monthly report, CRC has proposed a timeline where the Phase I integration work will be completed in October.

The timeline disagreement is another wrinkle in the long-running saga of the $2.8 billion public transportation project to extend Metro from Reston into Loudoun County with six new stations.

Many are growing impatient with the consistently-delayed Silver Line Phase 2, which originally was set to open in 2018.

“We really, really want to get this project done as soon as possible,” McAllister said. “We understand the community’s needs to have Silver Line Phase 2 open.”

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Silver Line Phase 2 remains on track to open in the first quarter of 2022, the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority says.

In an update on the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project issued on Monday (May 17), the agency says it is “confident” that construction will be finished “around Labor Day,” at which point the long-delayed $2.8 billion project will finally be handed off to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

If that happens as planned, WMATA will begin conducting “operational readiness testing.” That step includes more inspections, trainings, delivery of spare parts, certifications, and the correction of any issues.

That process should take two months if there are no outstanding issues, according to a Metro presentation on Silver Line Phase 2’s progress from March.

After that, there will be “pre-revenue activities,” including more trainings, testings, and the issuing of safety certifications. That step could take up to 90 days.

Putting all of that together, that leaves five months between when WMATA receives the project and when Silver Line Phase 2 and its six stations — Reston Town Center, Herndon, Innovation Center, Dulles Airport, Loudoun Gateway, and Ashburn — would officially open.

If WMATA does receive the project on Labor Day from MWAA, that puts a potential opening for revenue services and operation in early February 2022.

Of course, not all of this is guaranteed. MWAA says the timeline is “subject to change depending on the Airports Authority’s final completion date and the results of complex testing that are needed for Metro operations.”

What’s more, MWAA notes that the contractors building the tracks and the Phase 2 rail yard and maintenance facility have both missed deadlines.

“Each contractor missed its respective contract completion date but is striving to be ready for a September turnover,” the update says.

The contractors “knows what needs to be done,” says project head Charles Stark, who is retiring in July.

One of the major challenges of the project right now is connecting Phase 2 with Silver Line Phase 1, particularly west of the Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail station. Doing this will require shutting down service at the station for a period of time that could come as soon as early summer.

Reston Now reached out to WMATA to learn more about the timeline and duration of this shutdown, but has yet to hear back as of publication.

A number of elements of the project have been completed in recent months.

The complex stormwater control system, which delayed the project more than a full year, is now finished, along with the 300-plus glass panel windscreen at the Dulles Airport Metro station.

Dulles Airport station’s pedestrian tunnel now has moving existing sidewalks as well as an exhibit showing the history of the Dulles area.

Last month, Metro approved a $4.7 billion budget that officially delayed Silver Line Phase 2 to 2022 but prevented potential very consequential service cuts.

Photo courtesy Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority

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(Updated at 4:40 p.m.) The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is confident enough in the pace of construction on the second phase of Metro’s Silver Line that the project’s leader plans to retire on Independence Day — two months before the agency anticipates finishing its work.

MWAA Senior Vice President Charles Stark has announced that he will retire on July 4, Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project spokesperson Marcia McAllister confirmed to Reston Now. The Washington Post first reported the news yesterday (Monday).

Now 72 years old, Stark has served as executive director of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project since August 2014, overseeing the ambitious but oft-delayed 11.4-mile extension of Metro’s Silver Line from Reston to Ashburn through the Washington Dulles International Airport.

McAllister says Stark has decided to retire this summer, because construction on the rail line is now “99 percent complete,” and the project will soon be “moving toward testing which will lead to transfer of the project to WMATA.”

MWAA announced earlier this month that it expects the Silver Line to be ready for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to take over by Labor Day in early September.

“We are confident that team is in place to make that happen,” MWAA reiterated in a new statement.

Silver Line phase two will add six stations to the transit system, including one at Reston Town Center and two in the Herndon area. The project has been plagued by construction issues since work began in 2014.

Budget challenges stemming from depressed ridership during the COVID-19 pandemic also had Metro raising the idea of keeping some of the new Silver Line stations closed even after starting operations, presumably next year, though a new wave of federal relief will likely avert that possibility.

WMATA says it has no concerns about Stark’s impending retirement affecting the Silver Line project.

“We look forward to continuing to work with MWAA towards resolution of the remaining issues and acceptance of the project,” Metro spokesperson Ian Janetta said.

MWAA CEO Jack Potter commended Stark for his “leadership in bringing this large, complex project to this stage.

“We wish him all the best in his mid-summer retirement,” Potter said.

Photo by Chuck Samuelson/Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project

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Metro’s Board of Directors is still proceeding as if the Silver Line Phase II will open this year, but a public survey is asking riders to weigh in on drastic service cuts, including closing the newly-opened Phase II stations in Janurary 22.

Last week, Metro announced that the public comment period for its 2022 fiscal year budget has officially opened.

As part of that, they’re asking riders to fill out a survey about what extreme service cuts they’d be willing to tolerate beginning on Jan. 1, 2022 if additional federal money is not available.

In these options is a question about the closing of 22 stations across the entire system, including two Silver Line stations – McLean and Greensboro – and three potentially newly-opened Silver Line Phase II stations – Innovation Station, Loudoun Gateway, and Reston Town Center.

Although the 2021 budget says that Phase II could open July 1, 2021, it could be delayed until, at the earliest, the fall.

At last week’s budget work session, an tentative estimate was noted as early November.

A Metro spokesperson tells Reston Now there’s “no clear answer yet” about an opening date, however the Metro Board has to proceed as if it will open in 2021 in order to pass the 2022 budget.

“The Board will take all public feedback into consideration before approving a final budget for FY22,” writes the spokesperson.

So, it is possible that the Silver Line Phase II could open this year, only for the stations to close a few months later due to the budget shortfall.

Complicating the situation is that Silver Line Phase II and the proposed drastic service cuts are essentially on two different timelines.

Earlier this month, Metro’s staff presented an update on 18 different safety and operational issues previously noted in December.

Of those 18, 17 were still in the midst of being resolved or remained unresolved. They range from maintenance issues with the station platform pavers to several thousand damaged track fasteners that need replacing to cracked third rail insulators.

The Metro spokesperson confirms that resolving these safety and operational issues have a greater impact on the timeline for the opening of the Silver Line Phase II than the budget shortfall in 2022.

In fact, Metro’s funding for Phase II construction hasn’t really been impacted by Metro’s overall financial woes.

“The Metro board has not done anything to delay the opening of Phase II as a matter of Metro policy or budget policy,”Metro Board of Supervisors member Matt Letourneau told Reston Now in January. “Thus far the position of the Metro board has been whenever the project is…. deemed acceptable and safe, and gone through testing, we should open it.”

That’s not to say that the Silver Line Phase II won’t cost Metro money that needs to be accounted for in the 2022 budget.

At last week’s work session, it was noted that operating costs for Phase II are about $120 million annually, or $10 million a month.

If it is delayed to November 2021 due to safety and operational issues, that would save Metro about $40 million.

However, retention costs like security and ongoing maintenance are $28.5 million annually or about $2.38 million a month — even if the stations and trains are not running and operational.

In the end, if Silver Line Phase II does not open in early November and gets delayed until additional federal funding does come through, it could save Metro about $7.5 million a month.

Metro is continuing to plan the 2022 budget under the prospect that they will not receive additional federal funding, though.

The most recent coronavirus relief package provided Metro more than $600 million in federal funds. That funding, notes Metro, helped avoid layoffs and provide essential services.

But even with that funding and other austerity measures, “there is not enough money to fill the entire budget gap for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2021,” Metro’s press release reads.

Hence, the potential need to close 22 stations, including the possibly-just-opened Silver Line Phase II stations.

Among the other options for service cuts asked in the survey is closing Metrorail every day at 9 p.m. and trains arriving only every 30 minutes at most stations.

Metro is asking riders to fill out the survey by Tuesday, March 16 at 5 p.m.

There’s a decent chance, however, that these worries over closing stations on Jan 1, 2022 could become moot.

President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan has $20 billion earmarked for public transit agencies.

At this time, however, it remains unclear how much would go to Metro if the plan does pass in Congress.

Photo courtesy Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority

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A new audit from the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission has found a dozen items that Metro needs to correct as soon as possible and before the opening of Silver Line Phase 2.

Many of the items are related to the lack of guidance and training for employees on a new structural inspection manual. Additionally, the audit also says Metrorail does not review contracted inspectors’ credentials or qualifications thoroughly enough.

In all, how Metro currently handles structural inspections creates “the risk that safety issues could be misidentified or slip through the cracks.”

Another issue is that Metrorail has yet to provide load ratings for its elevated structures, meaning it’s unclear the size and weight limit of trains and equipment that can safely traverse a bridge or station. This creates a risk that the structures “could be inadvertently overloaded,” according to the audit.

The audit makes the conclusion that all of these issues “demonstrates a separate significant, ongoing problem facing Metrorail: siloed departments that do not fully coordinate on work instructions, materials or procedures.”

All aspects of Metro are audited over a three-year cycle, but the structural inspection process was audited now “due to other othersight work that identified concerns,” a WMSC spokesperson tells Reston Now.

Metrorail has 45 days to submit corrective action plans for the issues to the safety commission.

Beyond that, the timeline isn’t clear of when these required changes will actually take place.

The WMSC spokesperson also tells Reston Now that while some of these items are “relatively straight forward” others, like proper training, could take more time.

When reached for comment, a Metro spokesperson wrote Reston Now via email that they are addressing the issues:

Metro appreciates the efforts of the WMSC in completing this audit, especially the acknowledgement of the substantial progress that Metro has made with our structural assessment and maintenance programs. We require inspection of bridges and related structures at least every two years, more frequently in some instances, to ensure structural integrity and the safety of the riding public.

In addition to inspection and maintenance programs, Metro is investing in an aggressive capital program to ensure the state of good repair of our elevated structures, including addressing priority projects. As we review the findings of this audit and develop our responses, we remain committed to continuous improvement of our program and enhancing the safety of the system.

All of this has left the status and timeline of Silver Line Phase 2, which includes the opening of Reston Town Center Station, Herndon Station, and four other stations extending into Northern Virginia, up in the air.

Over the last several months, a number of audits and reports have called out Metro and have threatened to delay the openings.

In the fall, a WMSC audit reported that Metro’s Rail Operations Control Center is a “toxic workplace” with “racial and sexual comments, harassment, and other unprofessional behavior.”

In September, a report from the Metro’s Office of Inspector General found 342 cracks in concrete panels at a number of Silver Lane Phase 2 stations. This was due to the use of faulty materials, read the report.

As of last month, Phase 2 could still open by the fall this year, but that’s at the earliest.

Reston Now followed up with the Metro spokesperson about an updated timeline for the opening of Silver Line Phase 2, but has yet to receive an answer as of publication.

Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority

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The Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project teams have completed the train control system connections for Phase 2 of the Silver Line Tie-In

This connects the line to the rest of the region’s transit system and is a major step towards the completion of the rail line extension from the Wiehle-Reston East Station through Dulles Airport to Ashburn in eastern Loudoun County, according to a statement from the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.

Rail project crews were able to complete the tie-in work at the Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail while working with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. The WMATA closed some Orange and Silver lines for maintenance work, according to the statement, allowing for crews to complete the Wiehle-Reston East work faster. 

“Finishing the critical tie-in this summer means 13 previously planned WMATA shutdowns that had been planned over the coming months will not be needed,” said Charles Stark, the Airports Authority senior vice president and head of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project. 

There will be three additional one-day shutdowns in November and December for systems and dynamic testing. 

The project is aiming to turn over Phase 2 of the Silver Line to the WMATA around the first of the year, said the statement. Once construction and testing are complete, the Airports Authority will give authority to the WMATA. 

The first phase of the Silver Line project from East Falls Church to Wiehle-Reston East with four stations in Tysons opened in 2014, according to the statement. Completion of Phase 2 from Wiehle Ave. to Ashburn will include stops at the Reston Town Center, Herndon, Innovation Center, Dulles Airport and Loudoun Gateway stations.  

Photo courtesy of Dusty Smith

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Construction of the Silver Line extension into Loudoun County has cleared a major hurdle.

Crews with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority have begun the process of tying in the current Silver Line with the extension.

On Friday, crews began the tie-in process at the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station, which would connect phase two’s computerized control systems to the rest of the Metrorail system.

Capital Rail Constructors, its subcontractors, the MWAA, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority are cooperating to complete the effort.

“The tie-in project is critical and complicated work that requires close cooperation and coordination among contractors and WMATA,” said Charles Stark, MWAA senior vice president and head of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.

The extension is expected to be fully operational in the spring. Currently, all five Silver Lien stations are closed during the summer shutdown.

Tie-in work will be completed by the end of July. After construction is completed, WMATA will assume ownership of phase two and conduct additional testing. A final date for completion of the overall project will be set at a later point.

“Months of preparation and coordination between Capital Rail Constructors, WMATA and the Airports Authority led to the initiation of the tie-in work, to ensure that software and other controls on both sections,” according to a statement from the Dulles Corridor Metro rail Project.

Once complete, the extension project will run along 11.5 miles of track from Wiehle Avenue to Ashburn.

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The construction of a series of stormwater ponds to collect and treat runoff from phase two of the Silver Line is underway.

A spokesperson for the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project says that four of the 15 stormwater management facilities along the extension project have been completed.

The largest facility is wetlands constructed near the county’s garage south of Herndon Station.

The extension project implements new stormwater management standards to treat runoff and remove pollutions, according to Stephen Barna, the project’s engineering director.

“The project elected to adopt the new standards for the benefit of the public,” he said.

Here’s more from the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project on the projects:

They have varying features from dry swales with specialized filters to manmade wetlands that contain multiple bioretention pools to treat stormwater flow.

While the stormwater management facilities in Phase 1 were designed primarily to prevent flooding, the ones that were built in Phase 2 were designed to also remove pollutants while retaining runoff.

Special grasses and plants are planted within the Phase 2 ponds, while locally appropriate trees.

Photo via Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project

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A long-awaited report by Metro’s Office of Inspector General flags new major concerns with the extension of the Silver Line into Loudoun County. It’s unclear if new issues will cause further delays for the long-awaited project, which is expected to open next year.

The 23-page report flags longstanding concerns and new issues that have arisen.  The report cautions Metro from accepting the project from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority — which is in charge of construction — until problems have been resolved.

Specifically, the report finds that WMATA has had trouble ensuring that the Automatic Train Control (ATC) system is integrated between the first and second phases of the project.

The unresolved issues with ATC system acceptance requirements create the potential for even more schedule delay beyond what is already reported. Additionally, these deficiencies do not engender confidence in system safety,” the report states.

Issues that have been long under discussion — such as issues with surge arresters, switches, and misplaced rail joints — are also discussed in the report.

Overall, the report finds two major issues: ineffectiveness and inconsistencies in the contractor’s efforts to ensure problem areas are addressed and the absence of an integrated approach to view the extension’s infrastructure from a holistic and outsider perspective.

The report does not delve into issues of cracks in concrete panels just yet. The Office of the Inspector General is working with an independent contractor to inspect each panel to determine its condition, according to the report. So far, the MWAA’s contractor has found cracks in 24 panels.

It’s possible the latest report could delay Metro’s opening even further. Officials expect it to open in the spring.

Staff photo by Jay Scott

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The garage at Innovation Center Metro Station is nearly complete.

The $52 million project is almost entirely built-out. Crews must now install elevators, finish installing utilities and complete the final concrete work outside the garage.

Metro officials said the project required $5 million less than what was originally allocated.

Construction on the 11-mile extension of the Silver Line is also nearly complete, but concerns about deficiencies in the concrete panels and concrete ties have stalled the project.

Currently, site inspections and safety testing are ongoing. Previously approved shutdowns for the Wiehle-Reston East Station on weekends were canceled due to pending system integration work.

Metro does not plan to accept the rail project the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority until both the rail yard and mainline tracks are complete. The start of service is expected to begin by October this year.

Photos via handout/Fairfax County Government

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Monday Morning Notes

Traffic Changes on Dulles Toll Road and Sunset Hill Road This Week — Lane closures are scheduled beginning today (Monday) through Friday, Nov. 22, along the eastbound and northbound Dulles Toll Road and eastbound Sunset Hills Road near the future Reston Town Center Metro Station. [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]

Owner of Public Interest Registry to Sell Organization — The owner of Reston-based Public Internet Registry, which oversees customers in the .org domain, is set to sell the organization to a private equity company. [Washington Business Journal]

Free Locking Devices Available for Medications, Firearms — The county is offering free cable and trigger locks ad locking medication boxes. Individuals interested in the items can email [email protected] for more information. [Fairfax County Government]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Silver Line test trains are now running into Loudoun County.

Trains are making their way into the county from the aerial guideway on the Dulles Airport property through the Loudoun Gateway Station to the Ashburn Station.

Testing is underway using eight rail cars that were supplied by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

Metro asked for a pause in testing in mid-September after expressing concerns about the safety of trains when they switch tracks. Recent investigations found that the issue is not linked to possible derailment for test trains.

Although Metro signed off on allowing train testing to continue, a number of concerns with phase two of the project remain, including concrete panel issues.

Photo by Chuck Samuelson/Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project

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Monday Morning Notes

Lane and Ramp Closures This Week — Lane, shoulder and road closures are planning on several local roads this week due to work on phase two of the Silver Line. Impacted roads include Sunset Hills Road, Sunrise Valley Drive, and Herndon Parkway. [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]

Committee Takes On New Development Proposals — The Reston Planning & Zoning Committee meets tonight to vote on three developments in Reston: Isaac Newtown Square, changes to Halley Rise, and Reston Station Promenade. [Reston Planning & Zoning Committee]

Hopes for the Silver Line and Revenue Boosts — “Diminishing fuel-tax returns of about 45 percent have hampered Virginia’s infrastructure-funding efforts, but higher tax rates approved by the General Assembly this year will boost those efforts, Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine told the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce at an Aug. 7 panel discussion.” [Inside NOVA]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Monday Morning Notes

Lane and Ramp Closures This Week — A number of lane and ramp closures are planned this week along the Dulles Toll Road, Sunrise Valley Drive, Sunset Hills Road and Herndon Parkway. [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]

KBS Reit III Sells Reston Building — The company has sold off 11 assets totaling 3.4 million square feet of office space, including Reston Square in Reston. The transaction reportedly helped the company repay outstanding debt and retain 33 percent ownership interest in the purchaser. [Globe St]

DMV2Go at Reston Town Center Today — The mobile office on wheels brings DMV services to RTC from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. [Reston Town Center]

Photo by John Schnick

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