Friday Morning Notes

(Updated at 12:10 p.m. after Reston Association’s annual Community Yard Sale was postponed.)

Another SafeTrack Surge Starts Next Week — Metro’s latest round of work will have five stations on the east end of the Orange Line closed, which will also affect Silver Line traffic. Tuesday through June 15, trains will operate between Wiehle-Reston East and Stadium-Armory only every 12 minutes. This means more than 50 percent fewer trains during morning peak hours. Fairfax County is suggesting alternatives for commuters, including car pooling and buses. [WMATA]

League of American Cyclists Honors County — Fairfax County has been recognized with Bronze-level status as a Bicycle Friendly Community. It is one of 416 communities nationwide that have been honored. [Fairfax County]

Community Yard Sale Postponed to Sunday — With rain in the forecast, Reston Association’s annual Community Yard Sale has been postponed from Saturday. It will now be held from 8:30 a.m. to noon Sunday at 1900 Campus Commons Drive, at the corner of Sunrise Valley Drive and Wiehle Avenue. Those planning to attend are still encouraged to call 703-435-6577 after 4:30 a.m. Sunday to check the event’s status. [Reston Association]

County Embracing Driverless Future — Fairfax County is the testing ground for self-driving cars and connected infrastructure in Virginia. Officials recently brought in autonomous-vehicle experts, policymakers, manufacturers and entrepreneurs to share their research. [Fairfax County]

Reston Couple Share Love Story — Roger and Anita Lowen are approaching 50 years of marriage. It all started, they remember, with a prank call. [Washington Post]


Many were shocked when WMATA announced late Friday that the next phase of SafeTrack work will mean the closing of several stations and shutdown of line segments, rather than the original plan of continuous single-tracking on certain Metro lines.

As WMATA announced on Friday, the final two SafeTrack surges set to begin this month will mostly affect the Orange and Red Lines, but as usual, the work on those lines will cause a ripple affect on other lines as well, including Reston’s Silver Line trains.

Commuters who regularly take the Orange and Red Lines may want to look into alternate modes of transportation, particularly since what was originally planned to be single-tracking of some segments will now be “line-segment shutdowns,” officials said Friday. In addition, several stations will be closed.

“In order to minimize the customer impact elsewhere on the system and to maximize productivity, the surges, which were originally planned as continuous single tracking, will instead be ‘line segment shutdowns,’ where buses will replace trains at selected stations,” officials said on WMATA’s website.

Restonians should be aware that all of this means there will be roughly half as many Silver Line trains operating during peak rush-hour than usual during this next SafeTrack surge, which is scheduled for Tuesday, May 16 to Thursday, June 15.

Read More


Some of the Silver Line's first passengers on July 26, 2014Fewer trains, longer wait times and crowding are what’s in store for Silver and Orange Line Metro riders through next month.

Metro’s latest SafeTrack “surge” began today and is expected to last through at least Dec. 21. Reston residents who depend on Metro for their daily commute are likely to feel the pain.

Technical problems — like the decaying rail ties that led to the Silver Line derailment over the summer — have caused a number of issues along the Metrorail system in the past year.

Metro officials are advising commuters to find other ways to get to around the D.C. Metro area as the system’s huge push to boost the system’s safety continues.

“Due to a severe reduction in service, Metro riders who have the ability to do so should consider alternate travel options and avoid traveling during rush hour if possible,” Metro’s latest announcement stated.

Here are other important facts Metro officials want riders to know during this time period:

  • Silver Line Trains will be traveling approximately every 20 minutes between Reston’s Wiehle-Reston East and Maryland’s Largo Town Center East.
  • Orange Line trains will run every 20 minutes between Vienna and New Carrollton in Maryland.
  • Crowding is expected on all Orange and Silver Line trains.
  • Crowding is also expected on Blue Line trains between the Rosslyn and Stadium-Armory stations due to reduced capacity on the Orange and Silver Lines.
  • Weekend service may also be impacted due to track work on various lines. Weekend service announcements are posted online.

See Metro’s full announcement online, with more details and a list of alternative travel options for commuters.

File photo



Derailment near East Falls Church/Credit: VDOTA rail tie issue was the probable cause for last week’s Orange/Silver Line derailment, Metro said on Monday.

The derailment of a train bound for Wiehle-Reston East occurred Friday morning near the East Falls Church station. Parts of the line remained closed through Sunday, but reopened on Monday.

Those rail ties had not yet been replaced under Metro’s SafeTrack program.

While the investigation is ongoing, Metro released the following preliminary findings:

Metro’s safety department has made a preliminary assessment that the causal factor in the derailment is a track condition, specifically a condition where the two rails on which trains run were too wide as a result of deteriorated rail ties.

Other possible contributing causal factors, including car equipment, weather, temperature and other factors remain under review.

At this time there is no evidence of train operator error.

Metro General Manager/CEO Wiedefeld today ordered a special supervisory inspection of all tracks.

“While Metro and the outside experts continue their review, we are requiring supervisors to conduct a specialized track inspection to look for any other similar conditions that must be immediately addressed,” said Wiedefeld.

Metro has taken additional corrective actions, including: pre-inspecting interlockings (NoMa-Gallaudet, Silver Spring & Takoma) used on the Red Line prior to this morning’s implementation of SafeTrack Surge #6; requiring a supervisory pre-inspection of all interlockings that are required to be used to facilitate SafeTrack closures; and quality assurance audits of all these inspections.


Map of Silver Line/Credit: MetroThe critical junction where Metro’s Orange and Blue/Silver Line diverge is now in state of good repair, says Metro General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld.

Weidefeld on Wednesday released the final production report for the second SafeTrack surge. He said that all planned work had been completed during the 16-day project.

“I am satisfied that we are accomplishing our objectives with respect to the pace of track work progress in Surge No. 2,” Wiedefeld said in a statement. “Our continued success depends upon Metro customers heeding the warnings about reduced service during SafeTrack surges and finding alternate ways to commute. I am optimistic as we get underway now with Surge No. 3.”

During Surge No. 2, crews repaired and/or replaced critical rail infrastructure affecting train speeds and ride quality. Metro says critical tasks accomplished during the surge include:

  • Replacement of four major switches at D&G junction, one of a handful of key locations where trains are routed to different lines
  • Replacement of over 500 wooden crossties
  • Renewal of over 230 third-rail insulators
  • Elimination of over 20 rail joints
  • Renewal of over 2,000 linear feet of grout pads
  • Renewal of 12 signals
  • Inspection and repair of over 180 power cables

For a complete status update on Surge 2 progress, visit Metro’s website.

SafeTrack is an accelerated track work plan to address safety recommendations and rehabilitate the Metro system and address critical safety issues.

Metro is rotating closings of sections of the system in order to complete three year’s of maintenance in about 10 months. There will be 15 safety surges overall.

Surge No. 3 began on Tuesday, July 5 and includes a complete rail shutdown between National Airport and Braddock Road, impacting Yellow and Blue Line riders. All Metro customers traveling to/from DC must use shuttle buses between Braddock Rd and Pentagon City during the project. Southbound customers should exit at Pentagon City for a bus shuttle.

Surge No. 5, which begins July 20, will again significantly impact Reston-area Silver Line riders.


Monday is the first workday under Metro’s second Safety Surge.

While Surge No. 1 wrapped up single tracking that affected Silver Line trains on the route to/from Wiehle Reston East, it doesn’t mean the ride is totally clear for riders originating or disembarking in Reston. Surge No.2 — one of 15 safety projects from Metro over the next 10 months — will affect Blue Line Riders in Arlington, as well as Silver Line riders in DC. Read More

2 Comment

First Silver Line train at Wiehle-Reston East/Credit: Mike HeffnerMetro is investigating a derailment of a piece of track equipment in the work zone between Ballston and East Falls Church stations that occurred shortly after midnight Tuesday. There were no injuries.

The derailment may have been caused by a passing Silver Line train, Metro says.

There is equipment on the tracks because of Metro’s SafeTrack project, the first phase of which began June 4 and will continue on the Silver, Blue and Orange lines until later this week. Metro plans 15 “Safety Surges” over the next 10 months to do necessary repairs.

From Metro:

The track machine that derailed is described as a “spiker,” measuring approximately 21 feet long by 10 feet wide, that is used to install new rail spikes into wooden ties to hold the rail in place. The derailment was reported at approximately 12:05 a.m.

A passing Silver Line train that was in the area at the time reported possibly making contact to the mirror of the track equipment. That train was stopped, inspected, deemed safe and continued to East Falls Church, where passengers were transferred to a different train to continue their trip.

The operator of the track equipment, as well as other employees directly involved, have been temporarily removed from service during the investigation. In addition, overnight work in the area was suspended to allow for a safety review.

The incident did not affect passenger service on Tuesday morning.

Silver Line trains/file photo


Wiehle-Reston East Metro areaImagine a Reston without the Silver Line. Not that difficult, since it has only been open for less than two years and the extension from Reston Town Center to Loudoun County won’t open until 2020.

A Washington Post reporter says it should never have been built. In an opinion column published Wednesday, Fredrick Kunkle summarized what a lot of area residents have been thinking this week: Metro should have fixed what it had before embarking on this $2.9 billion project.

Silver Line riders were among the most affected as Metro rolled out its SafeTrack program this week. The program, which aims to complete three years work of needed repairs in about 10 months, will involve 15 “Safety Surges,” which means single tracking, delays and other shutdowns.

The first surge means delays, crowded cars and other general chaos from Wiehle-Reston East (Silver) to Ballston (Silver/Orange/Blue) and beyond until June 16.

Writes Kunkle: “The argument goes that Metro’s leadership should have focused instead on overhauling and upgrading the nearly 40-year-old system before adding a new line in Northern Virginia. The Silver Line was a project either years before its time — or too late. And now there are plenty of people around eager to say, I told you so.”

He points out that Silver Line ridership has been below predictions and construction blew its budget, among other issues.

Among those disagreeing with him: Fairfax County Supervisor Chair Sharon Bulova, who says the Silver Line has not been a drag on Metro’s other resources. She adds that there were plans for the line going back to the 1960s; that funding came from wide resources (not just local taxpayers); and that it has sparked commercial and residential growth in the county (including a major boom in Reston).

Washingtonian also points out the flaws in The Post’s reasoning in this piece.

“There’s a lot about the Silver Line that could have been handled differently — the timing, the quality of the construction work, the ridership expectations. But ditching it entirely? That would be the greatest error,” writes Washingtonian’s Benjamin Freed.


Waiting for a train at Wiehle-Reston East June 6/Credit: Chris Pyburn ‏via Twitter

Crowded cars. Waits of up to a half hour at the Wiehle-Reston East station. Clogged roads.

Welcome to the first workday of the first Metro Safety Surge, where Metro shuts or significantly alters service on a section of the system in order to make repairs.

Riders on Silver and Orange Line trains will be affected by track and other safety work through June 16.

While Metro warned in advance that trains would run every 18 minutes, social media statuses showed that waits were much longer for some riders.

Others who opted to drive to work reported clogged major roads.

Metro officials will brief the media this afternoon about how things went on Day 1. Metro says entries west of Ballston were down 26 percent as riders sought other ways to get to work (or telecommute). About 1,000 fewer riders (3,924 compared to 5,002) than on a typical Monday boarded at Wiehle-Reston East, Metro said.

Metro will hold 15 of these Safety Surges over the next 10 months as it undertakes much-needed repairs on an accelerated schedule

Photo: Waiting for a train at Wiehle-Reston East June 6/Credit: Chris Pyburn ‏via Twitter


Welcome to first workday of Metro’s new SafeTrack program.

The repair project — which will include 15 “safety surges” — over the next 10 months began Saturday, with single tracking and reduced trains on the Silver and Orange lines from Wiehle-Reston East to Ballston. The surge will last until June 16.

Metro is conducting the rolling repairs in order to complete three years of needed changes and improvements in about a year.

Metro says expect significantly longer wait times and crowded trains on the Silver and Orange lines the next 10 days.

Orange Line trains will run only every 18 minutes between Vienna and Ballston, while Silver Line trains will run every 18 minutes. Additional trains will be placed in service east of Ballston.

Here is what you need to know to get around today:

Here is the main SafeTrack page with a detailed schedule of surges and their impact.

Are you driving downtown or along the Silver/Orange lines? There may be increased road traffic as well.

The Washington Post’s Dr. Gridlock tested the ride from Silver Spring to Wiehle-Reston East over the weekend. Here is how it went.

Fairfax County Department of Transportation officials held an online chat on Thursday. This transcript may answer some of our questions.

Check out more Fairfax County options on this page, including a direct bus from Reston to Pentagon, Fairfax Connector schedules and more.

Good luck — and let us know how your commute goes on Monday.


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