Reston, VA

(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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Updated at 4:30 pm — By Labor Day weekend, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority will be ready to handoff the second phase of the Silver Line project to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

Today’s announcement comes after nearly a year of delays for the project, which adds new stations from Reston to Loudoun County. Major construction issues, including the quality of concrete panels, caused significant concerns in recent months.

But now Charles Stark, senior Vice President of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, said major progress has been made.

“Recent progress on outstanding issues has put us in a position to establish a target date for substantial completion and will enable Metro to solidify its plans for final testing, training and starting passenger service.” Stark wrote in a statement.

But a spokeswoman for Metro cautioned that Merro will ultimately determine if it will accept the project.

“Today’s announcement enables Metro to begin planning and budgeting for the start of service in early 2022. As MWAA achieves substantial completion, Metro will be testing, conducting system safety certification, and recruiting and training employees to get ready for passenger service,” wrote Metro General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld

 

The project is currently being managed by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Phase two extends the line to Loudoun County and includes six new stations and a rail maintenance facility.

This comes as Metro considers closing down three of the newly-opened stations early next year due to drastic budget cuts and dips in ridership.

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Cash will no longer be accepted at the Dulles Toll Road beginning next year.

The decision, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, was made in response to customers’ preferences for electronic toll payments, according to a statement released yesterday by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

No loose change will be accepted and tollbooth change baskets will be removed as part of the permanent move.

Here’s more information from MWAA on acceptable forms of payment:

Any lane can be used with a valid E-ZPass account or other form of electronic tolling. Customers can visit E-ZPass Virginia for information on how to obtain an E-ZPass. If toll-lane cameras identify a license plate associated with an E-ZPass account, that account will be charged for the transaction even if an E-ZPass is not present in the vehicle.

To make it easier to get an E-ZPass, the minimum opening account balance has been temporarily reduced to $20 per transponder (from $35) for online and phone applications. E-Z Pass also offers a reloadable Virginia E-Z Pass Card, these can be purchased your local CVS Pharmacy and 7-11 Convenience Stores.

The GoTollSlora and Peasey Drive On smartphone apps are also accepted as payment. 

Motorists passing through all toll plaza lanes without electronic payment will be sent a payment notice by mail. Missed tolls which are paid within six days of the violation will not be charged an administrative fee. Customers are encouraged to visit the Virginia Department of Transportation’s online toll violation payment website for information on proactively paying missed tolls.

In early April,  manual toll collecting was suspended in response to COVID-19. All personnel from toll boots were removed and cash-exchange toll collections were suspended.

Electronic tolling became the preferred method of payment in 2003, when more than $18 million was collected with E-ZPass, compared to roughly $17 million collected in cash that calendar year.

In 2017, roughly $130 million was collected via E-ZPass while nearly $18 million was collected by cash, according to a 2018 study by the MWAA.

Image via Google Maps

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Ever since the Federal Aviation Administration rolled out NextGen — a new system to modernize its air traffic control systems — communities across the country have complained about increased airplane noise in areas where it previously did not persist.

Recently, Reston, and Herndon residents have raised concerns about airplane noise on social media. It’s possible that the FAA has indeed changed flight paths, which could be leading to complaints.

NextGen ditches radio in favor of GPS to guide planes and digital communication. Flight paths are narrower and at lower altitudes as a result.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority tells Reston Now they’ve seen no recent rise in complaints. While we’re awaiting a response from the FAA, we’d love to hear from you.

Have you seen a change in airplane noise in your neighborhood? You can also email us at [email protected] to provide information about what’s happening in your area.

Photo via Unsplash

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Metro officials have stopped Capital Rail Constructors from running test trains on the Silver due to concerns about construction flaws.

The Washington Post reports that metro officials want to complete their own inspections before allowing test runs to resume. However, a spokesperson for the Silver Line contractor said it has not been told to stop running test trains.

The Post reports that the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) did not tell Capital Rail Constructors to halt trains because “it didn’t think it needed to,” according to the report.

Here’s more from the story:

At its regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday, MWAA’s board appeared unfazed following a project update report, saying it was moving forward and would be ready to carry passengers in July 2020.

“I want to compliment you and your staff,” Robert W. Lazaro Jr., who represents Virginia on the 17-member board, told Charles Stark, the project’s executive director.

The latest issue related to phase two of the Silver Line could delay the overall project. Contractors originally began running test trains in February.

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Friday Morning Notes

Excessive Heat Warning in Effect Today — The heat warning is in effect from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. this evening. Heat index values will climb near 110 degrees today. An excessive heat watch is in effect tomorrow and Sunday as well. [Fairfax Alerts]

Review Changes to Fairfax County’s Zoning Laws — On Monday, June 22, residents can drop in on an open house in Fairfax to learn about recently proposed changes, including new uses for agritourism and limiting temperatures for LED lights. Attendees can also learn about recently adopted changes to community gardens, short-term rentals, and signs. [Fairfax County Government]

Despite Issues, Silver Line Extension On Track — “Switches in the new Silver Line rail yard do not line up with the tracks they are supposed to connect to, systems to detect train locations in the yard have failed, and there are still problems with the rocks that support the tracks, a new report to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board said.” [WTOP]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Test trains for the Silver Line are now running new tracks between Wiehle-Reston East and Ashburn.

But it’s still unclear how the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s contractor plans to fix defective concrete rail ties that have put the tracks out of alignment.

According to the WTOP, MWAA wants the rail ties to be replaced, but that process might create additional delays.

Inspectors have been monitoring work on the concrete sealant and concrete areas that hold tracks in the rail yard.

So far, MWAA has rejected the contractors’ planned construction schedules. Negotiations are currently underway on the best way to speed things up.

File photo

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Despite a toll increase that went into effect in January, more drivers are using the Dulles Toll Road than the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority anticipated.

Between January and March, tolls brought in $46.4 million — 31 percent more compared to the same period last year. That gives the MWAA $11.2 million to work with in order to fund phase two of the Silver Line.

Even though the number of toll transactions dipped by 4.8 percent compared to the previous year, transactions were 1.3 percent higher than MWAA expected. So far this year, there have been 21.7 million transactions.

The cost of operations also increased this year. Year-to-date expenses were $1.3 million or 17 percent higher than the same period last year. MWAA attributed this increase to $1 million in operating expenses for expanded service and $300,000 in transaction fees.

Toll prices increased for the first time in four years from $2.50 to $3.25 and from $1 to $1.50 at ramps in order to cover phase two of the Silver Line past Reston Town Center to Dulles International Airport and Ashburn. Another increase is expected in 2023.

Photo via MWAA

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The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board of Directors voted Wednesday (Nov. 14) to increase rates on the Dulles Toll Road for the first time since 2014.

The hike will raise the toll from $2.50 to $3.25 at the main toll plaza and from $1 to $1.50 on ramps, starting in January. The rate increases are necessary to fund the Silver Line extension project and improvements on the Dulles Toll Road, according to the MWAA.

The decision came “after careful consideration of public input received at the three toll rate public hearings held this summer, the public comments received on-line and the recommendation of the Dulles Corridor Advisory Committee,” said Warner Session, chairman of the Airports Authority Board.

In 2014, an agreement froze increases before tolls rose again to continue funding Silver Line construction. “Under the contract governing construction of the Silver Line, the Airports Authority is required to use revenues from the toll road to help fund the [Silver Line] project,” according to a Nov. 14 MWAA press release, adding that other funding includes Fairfax and Loudoun counties, the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Airports Authority and the federal government.

Last month, a federal appeals court in Richmond affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the tolls helping to fund the Silver Line construction.

MWAA held a public hearing in Reston back in July to hear feedback on the proposed rate increases. The Dulles Corridor Advisory Committee reviewed and recommended the rates adopted by MWAA’s Board, according to the press release.

The next expected toll rate increase is planned for 2023.

Photo via MWAA 

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The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority will hold a public hearing in Reston on July 17 to hear feedback on proposed rate increases along the Dulles Toll Road.

Under the proposal, commuters would pay fifty cents more at ramp plazas and seventy-five cents more at the mainline plaza beginning in 2019. According to the MWAA, rate increases are necessary to fund the Silver Line extension project and improvements on the Dulles Toll Road.

The public hearing is scheduled for July 17 from 5-8 p.m. at South Lakes High School (11400 South Lakes Drive). Two other hearings will be held at Spring Hill Elementary School in McLean and Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn.

Attendees are encouraged to comment on how the planned toll increase of $1.25 for a typical Dulles Toll Road trip should be allocated between ramp and mainline plazas. The MWAA is also seeking comments on whether toll plaza lanes that allow customers to pay with cash should be converted to “E-ZPass only” tolling.

Comments on other operational improvements, including whether or not credit cards should be accepted at toll plaza lanes, are also encouraged.

MWAA representatives will be on site to discuss the proposal. Translators will also be available at each public hearing. The public engagement period will run from July 2 through August 3. Comments can be submitted to [email protected].

The MWAA’s board is expected to vote on planned toll increase later this year.

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Prepare for overnight closures on of Sunset Hills Road from Sunday through Thursday from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

The eastbound lanes of Sunset Hills Road near the intersection of Town Center Parkway will be closed. The westbound lane of the road will be reduce to one right thru lane as two-way traffic runs through the area.

The lane closure is necessary as construction crews working on the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project deliver large, heavy equipment to a nearby power substation that will power the future Reston Town Center station on the Silver Line. A crane will place the items on the south side walk.

Police will remain on site and plan to direct eastbound traffic onto the right westbound lane.

Here’s more from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority:

Beginning at 10 p.m. each night, eastbound Sunset Hills Road traffic will be diverted to westbound Sunset Hills Road at the intersection of Town Center Parkway.

Westbound Sunset Hills Road will be separated by traffic control devices (i.e. cones or drums) to safely facilitate two-way flow of traffic.

Eastbound Sunset Hills Road will be closed east of the detour.

A crane will be positioned on the south sidewalk and the sidewalk will be closed in this location.

The detour will end just west of Reston Parkway.

No later than 5 a.m. each morning, Sunset Hills Road will be returned to normal traffic flow; however, the crane will remain in place and the sidewalk will remain closed until work is completed.

All plans are subject to change due to weather.

Photo via MWAA

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Users of the Dulles Toll Road can expect to pay more in 2019, according to a 2018 draft budget presented to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board today.

No increase from the $3.50 toll ($2.50 at the plaza and $1 at the ramp) is planned in 2018; however, it is expected to jump to $4.75 the following year. Numbers presented by the Board’s Finance Committee show that is only the beginning of the hikes.

In 2023, the toll is projected to go up to $6. Additional jumps of $1.25 or more are projected every five years for the following two decades, resulting in an $11.25 toll in 2043.

The toll last increased in 2014, when it went up from $2.75 to the current rate. It steadily increased each year from 2010 to 2014. Prior to that, the toll was $1.25 (75 cents at the plaza and 50 cents at the ramp).

Tolls are used in part by MWAA to help fund the expansion of Metro’s Silver Line. Nearly half the cost of the construction, about $2.8 billion, is being paid by Toll Road fees.

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Opioid Roundtable Planned — The discussion, scheduled for the Fairfax County Government Center at 2 p.m. Saturday, will be hosted by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Sharon Bulova, chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. The event is open to the public. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue]

Reston Woman Pleads Guilty to Role in Gang-Related Killing — Cindy Blanco Hernandez, 19, entered pleas to abduction and gang participation Tuesday as part of a deal with prosecutors. She was among 10 members and associates of the gang MS-13 charged after the January killing of 15-year-old Damaris A. Reyes Rivas. She may face up to 30 years in prison when she is sentenced in May. [Washington Post]

Herndon Adds Parking Enforcement Position — The part-time officer was hired Oct. 3 and will work 30 hours a week, which has at least one resident worried about “end[ing] up like Reston Town Center.” [Connection Newspapers]

Silver Line Phase 2 Hits Two-Thirds Point — More than 5 million hours have been spent on the $2.78 billion project so far, according to updates expected to be presented today to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board. [WTOP]

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Lake Anne Brew House to Attend Festival This Weekend — The local nanobrewery is already gaining attention ahead of the Virginia Craft Brewers Festival this weekend in Charlottesville, with an event manager describing why its award-winning New Year’s Golden Ale is a top pick for him. [Richmond Times-Dispatch]

Farmers Market Success Celebrated — During a National Farmers Market Week commemoration this past Saturday at the Reston Farmers Market, its many successes were praised. [Connection Newspapers]

Pedestrian Bridges at Herndon Station Going in Next Week — The Herndon-Monroe Park & Ride will be closed overnight twice next week as the work is done. [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]

Residents Can Give Input in County Executive Search — Fairfax County Executive Edward Long will retire next month. The county is asking citizens to give their input to assist in the recruiting process for his replacement. [Survey Monkey]

Did You Get a Jury Questionnaire? — The county is sending out 50,000 jury questionnaires, and it wants to make sure recipients know it is just the beginning of the jury duty screening process. [Fairfax County]

Be Wary of Charlottesville Charity Scams — Attorney General Mark Herring says anyone interested in assisting victims of last weekend’s violence should vet the organization, campaign or page organizer before they donate. He says people who need help figuring out whether a charity is legitimate can contact the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Section. [WTOP]

File image courtesy Jennifer Heffner Photography

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According to a quarterly update provided Wednesday to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, construction of the Phase 2 of the Silver Line extension to Loudoun County has passed 60 percent completion.

Capital Rail Constructors reports that after nearly 4.4 million manhours of work, 61.12 percent of construction is done. They say the design process is 99.97 percent done.

The facility construction of the Reston Town Center station has continued with steel erection that started in May and will continue through August. Mechanical work projected to happen until fall 2018.

The Herndon Station will wrap up its metal decking by the end of August and start work on the roofing and skylights. The facility work of the station is estimated to be completed by this fall.

The MWAA is overseeing construction of the 11.4-mile project, which began in July 2013 and consists of six stations from the Reston Town Center station to the Ashburn station.

Despite the station construction steadily moving forward, the Silver Line extension will not be done for another three years. Construction on the cable trough is only 44 percent complete, and there are other track adjustments to make before everything is finalized.

WTOP reported earlier this week that the series of delays that pushed the opening back to 2020 will cost $95 million. The delays are being caused by a series of design changes, including safety-related work.

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