Reston, VA

After a variety of issues and delays, Silver Line’s Phase Two is now aiming for completion in spring 2021.

Updates on the second phase of the Silver Line were briefly mentioned due to time constraints during the Transportation Committee yesterday. Phase Two will connect six new stations to the Wiehle-Reston East, bringing Metro riders out to Ashburn.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said that he briefly talked to Paul Wiedefeld, the general manager and CEO of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, last week.

“He assured me that — at least as of early last week — the Phase Two opening is still on track for next spring,” Alcorn said. “I’m sure there are probably a dozen ways that that can change, but for now, at least it is moving forward, according to that schedule.”

Phase Two is 98% complete overall, according to the presentation for Martha Elena Coello with the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

The project has faced several delays, from train control software issues to flawed rail ties. The presentation addressed the ongoing issues the project has faced, including:

  • concrete panel deficiencies
  • concrete ties/cross level deficiencies
  • fouled ballast
  • automatic train control
  • insulated joints replacement

Work is expected to finish on the new rail, systems, stations and yard later this year or early 2021.

Recently, “substantial work” wrapped up on the garage at the Innovation Center Metro station, according to the presentation. The garage, which costs roughly $52 million, is 98% complete and awaiting its official occupancy permit, according to the presentation.

Bus loop work is expected to be done at the Herndon station garage this month.

The presentation also provided an update on the bus service plan for Phase Two. Currently, Fairfax County is seeking public input on the plan.

More from Fairfax Connector:

Welcome to the Reston-Herndon Area Bus Service Review final round of public input!… Fairfax Connector is considering a variety of options to improve bus service to, from, and around the new stations in Fairfax County.

Our previous round of outreach proposed three bus transit service alternatives, each with their own set of unique characteristics. We ranked the alternatives based on coverage, average travel times between key origin-destination pairs, and ridership potential (see right). We also listened to what Connector riders and nonriders had to say through several public meetings and an online survey. Based on feedback received, the preferred alternative presented today is cost-neutral, and includes the best elements of the three originally proposed scenarios and existing service.

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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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When the Silver Line suspends rail service west of Ballston this summer, drivers can use free parking at the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station.

Fairfax County announced yesterday that the station will have free parking while work is underway to connect the Silver Line Phase II stations, which will run from Reston to Ashburn.

Metro wasn’t originally planning to add the upcoming Silver Line stations, but due to lower ridership, Metro decided to add the Silver Line work to its summer closure of the Orange Line in parts of Northern Virginia.

“The closures begin Memorial Day weekend 2020 and are expected to continue through the fall,” according to the county.

Photo by Chuck Samuelson/Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project

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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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Construction at the Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride bus loop will resume next month.

The project is part of ongoing efforts to prepare for the conversation of the location to the Herndon Metrorail Station as part of the Silver Line extension part. Improvements to the bus loop are planned.

Fairfax Connector bus service will be relocated to temporary stops on Sunrise Valley Drive beginning May 4.

The project is to finish sometime in June, according to county officials. The current garage will remain open and the garage that is currently under construction is expected to reopen in September.

The following routes will be affected by ongoing construction:

More information about the project is available online.

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Although Metro is currently cutting routes and closing stations due to COVID-19, planning continues for the extension of the Silver Line into Loudoun County.

Initially, officials estimated phase two of the project would open by the summer. After delaying the projected opening several times and by several months, Metro officials now say the first trains will not begin running until April 2021, according to budget documents.

The 11-mile extension, which includes six new stations, will provide service to Dulles International Airport and Loudoun County.

A vote on Metro’s $2.1 million operating budget for the overall system is set for Thursday. But changes could be enacted by June as the coronavirus outbreak unfolds in the region.

The proposal includes an increase in rush-hour rail fares, the restoration of some late-night service, and cuts to the number of bus routes.

Trains would run every 12 minutes instead of every eight minutes on all lines on weekdays between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Photo by Jay Westcott

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The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is seeking input on future bus service to and from phase two of the Silver Line.

Residents can provide feedback at two meetings: Hutchinson Elementary School on Sat., March 21 from 10 a.m. to noon and South Lakes High School on Wed., March 25 from 7-9 p.m. Feedback will also be accepted online from March 16 through April 16.

Service will begin once the Metro stations are Reston Town Center, Herndon, Innovation Center, Dulles Airport, Loudoun Gateway and Ashburn are open.

In December, FCDOT officials backed the most transformative of three options to change service levels. This approach would impact a greater coverage area and was endorsed by the county’s Multimodal Advisory Committee. Other options include incremental changes to service plans or streamlining of existing routes.

More information about the proposals is available online.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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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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Wednesday Morning Notes

Metro Releases Operating Budget for Silver Line Extension — “Metro will need $24 million from the District, Maryland and Virginia to begin hiring employees and preparing for service on the Silver Line extension, according to an operating budget proposal for the project released Monday. The transit authority plans to devote $60 million — including the local contribution — in this fiscal year to staff the long-awaited nearly-11-mile rail extension, which will connect Dulles International Airport to Loudoun County.” [The Washington Post]

Washingtonian Features Reston Company —  Today Parabon has become the hottest thing in cold cases, with law-enforcement agencies lining up for help in solving old crimes. Using an innovative method that can analyze DNA from incredibly small samples, Parabon’s Snapshot creates a genetic-genealogy report that’s used to find possible familial links via public DNA databases. Parabon contributed to breaks in several hundred crimes over the last year alone.” [Washingtonian]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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The new silver line metro expansion is expected to be completed around September — instead of its July 2020 goal.

Testing is already underway for the new trains, and Fairfax County reported earlier this month that the project is about 97% complete, but several structural issues hinder project completion, according to WTOP.

The concerns revolve around cracks in concrete outside the station, deterioration of panels framing the station and uneven tracks where trains cross one another, WTOP reported in November.

“The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and its contractors who are building the rail line are confident the concrete panel issues have been addressed with protective sealant, which will be reapplied approximately once every 10 years,” according to WTOP.

Now, final construction continues around Reston and Herndon.

The Innovation Center Station garage is 92% complete, $5 million under budget and is expected to be completed in February, according to Fairfax County’s Department of Transportation (FCDOT).

For the Innovation Center Station itself, FCDOT staff told the Board of Supervisors earlier this week that crews were working on fixing communication systems and placing art in the north pavilion.

At the Reston Town Center Station, crews were installing speakers in the ceiling and working on stormwater management.

Photo via Fairfax County

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Thursday Morning Notes

County Seeks Help Reporting Streetlight Outages — Residents can report streetlight outages through the county’s interactive map online. [Fairfax County Government]

Meeting on Silver Line Phase Two Set for Today — The Dulles Corridor Advisory Committee meets today. The committee will receive an update on phase two of the project, as well as funding needs. [Dulles Corridor Advisory Committee]

Reminder about Reston Association Board Elections — Members interested in running for a seat in 2020should submit applications by Jan. 24. [Reston Association]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Lawmakers discussed bringing back late-night hours and Metro’s safety record with Metro officials at a congressional oversight hearing on the transit agency on Tuesday.

An ethics investigation into former Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board chair Jack Evans was the focus of most of the hearing, which was led by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations.

Connolly and other lawmakers urged Metro’s leadership to continue to combat what Connolly said was a “culture of mediocrity” concerning safety and efficiency in the system.

Additionally,  Metro assumes the authority of phase two of the Silver Line extension project, a number of safety-related issues must be resolved.

“We cannot allow shoddy construction work by cost-cutting contractors to saddle Metro and its ridership with long-term costly maintenance,” Connolly said.

So far, it’s unclear how next year’s opening of phase two of the Silver Line into Loudoun County will impact fares. Currently, Metro’s distance-based fares are capped at $6 at rush hour and at $3.85 at all other times.

Metro’s General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said WMATA is considering the possibility of fare increases as part of its budget development process. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) said she hopes Metro will maintain affordability for her constituents in Reston, Tysons and surrounding a real.

Metro is focusing on promoting the use of SmarTrip cards — a reloadable card used to pay Metrorail and local bus system fares — in order to boost ridership.

“Our biggest focus is getting people to use the SmarTrip cards and providing discounts for that,” Wiedefeld said. “That’s really the best way to use the system for us operationally and efficiency-wise,” he said.

At the meeting, officials also hinted at the possibility of bringing back late-night hours that Metro cut several years ago.

A recording of the meeting, which also touched on other issues like cybersecurity, Metro’s overall funding goals, is available online.

Photo via YouTube

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Fairfax County is seeking more feedback from commuters who use the Fairfax Connector.

A new round of meetings will give community members another chance to provide critiques for plans for the future of the Fairfax Connector and the Silver Line Metrorail expansion around Reston and Herndon, according to a press release.

People who want to give feedback can attend any of the three upcoming meetings, which are all accessible from the Fairfax Connector.

  • Herndon Middle School Cafeteria (901 Locust Street) on Thursday (Oct. 28) from 7-9 p.m.
  • Ox Hill Baptist Church (4101 Elmwood Street) on Friday (Oct. 29) from 7-9 p.m.
  • Reston Community Center at Lake Anne (1609-A Washington Plaza) on Saturday (Nov. 2) from 10 a.m.-noon

Anyone unable to attend the meetings in person may give feedback online. The form will be open from Oct. 23 until Nov. 30.

Comments can also be mailed to Fairfax County Department of Transportation, 4050 Legato Road, Suite 400, Fairfax, VA 22033.

Feedback from the meetings will be synthesized and converted into another design to “provide better access to destinations, improved travel times, increased schedule reliability and more dependable service,” the press release said.

This final plan will be available in early 2020 for a final round of critiques.

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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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