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
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.
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
Metro board members flagged several concerns with the Silver Line extension that could delay its expected opening date in July 2020.
At a Thursday board meeting, the board heard a comprehensive report about critical issues on the stations including cracked concrete an unleveled track.
In some areas, track plates are curved, creating a gap between the plate and tie of track plates. The report also found irregular track cross-levels. The contractor attempted to install pads, create custom guard rail plates and install hardware for all turnouts — a fix that Metro rejected because it is “not a safe and effective longterm solution.”
The report also indicated that the ballast — the gravel around the tracks — was contaminated with materials that could cause drainage issues and pose a potential safety risk.
Metro also rejected the contractor’s application of a sealer to remedy cracked concrete at five at-grade stations. The fix was implemented after a federal investigation confirmed the contractor falsified test results at the concrete plant.
The body is seeking a safe and effective long term solution after tests showed that the sealer did not effectively penetrate cracked concrete in 20 percent of the 25 areas Metro’s Office of Inspector General tested.
According to WAMU, Maryland board representative Michael Goldman said the findings cast a “dark and foreboding cloud” over the expected opening date provided by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority must address concerns highlighted by the report in order for Metro to take over the project.
Photo by Fatimah Waseem
Fairfax County officials’ concerns about safety dominated the county board’s latest discussions about phase two of the Silver Line project.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority reportedly wants to open the six-station second phase from Wiehle-Reston East to Loudoun Gateway and Ashburn next July.
Mark Canale from the Fairfax County Department of Transportation provided the Board of Supervisors with an update on the project today (Tuesday) at the Transportation Committee meeting.
Currently, dynamic testing and safe breaking testing are taking place for the project, he said.
Canale said that there are “four issues that are ongoing right now.” The issues include problems with concrete and leveling.
This isn’t the first time the project has run into problems. Earlier this year, defective concrete rail ties put the tracks out of alignment.
“This is a big project and an important project,” Chairman Sharon Bulova said. “I think it’s absolutely critical that when something is not getting done correctly, that we don’t brush over it and that we hold the contractors’ feet to the fire.”
Braddock District Supervisor John Cook said that the safety concerns should be taken seriously. “It will kill us,” he said.
Cook stressed that he wants transparency and honestly around the issues so that they can get fixed.
“It’s pretty bad when your concrete doesn’t work,” Cook said. “That’s a bad thing.”
In addition to the issues facing the project, Canale said that riders can expect several weekend closures at the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station in the coming months as work on the Silver Line project continues.
The first closure — which has been approved already — would last from Oct. 5-7. The following month, riders can expect closures from Nov. 9-12 and Nov. 30-Dec. 2.
Photos courtesy Dusty Smith/Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project
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
It’s official: the Herndon Metro Station is nearly complete.
This week, a sign marking the station was installed by Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority officials.
Town of Herndon Mayor Lisa Merkel met with WMATA officials on Monday, August 5 as part of a Silver Line bus tour.
The station is expected to open in July next year.
The town is working with the county to determine new bus routes with the Fairfax Connector once Metro trains are up and running.
Photo via Town of Herndon/Facebook
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has finally set a projected opening day for phase two of the Silver Line project.
WTOP reports that the authority hopes to open the six-station second phase from Wiehle-Reston East to Loudoun Gateway and Ashburn on July 16, 2020. Authority officials stressed the opening date was tentative and dependent on numerous factors.
Here’s more from WTOP:
“The current date to open the system to the public is July 16, 2020. That is our goal at this point, and we’re working very hard to meet it,” said Charles Stark, airports authority senior vice president for the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.
“It could be a few days earlier or a few days later. Nothing in the construction world is that exact, but you gotta have a goal, and that’s ours,” Stark said in an interview.
July 16, 2020, is a Thursday, so it is more likely that if construction sticks to the new schedule projections based on a statistical analysis and discussions with the contractors and Metro, the line would open the weekend before or after that.
Thus far, the opening of phase two has been delayed several times.
Metro will take roughly two months for final testing and employee training before it assumes ownership of the rail line from the authority.
The authority is currently in negotiations with contractors to determine the details of precise safety testing checklists for new stations, tracks and rail yards. The authority hopes to allow certain tests to be done simultaneously instead of sequentially in order to shave a significant amount of time off the schedule, according to the report.
Rail yard testing is expected to begin by the end of this year.
South Lakes High School to Begin Distributing Laptops — Distribution of laptops provided by the school system begins this Wednesday (August 7). Students must be present to receive the laptop, which is part of a recent initiative by the school system to give laptops to students across the county. [South Lakes High School]
Police Search for Missing Great Falls Man — Local police are looking for William “Billy Brener, an 83-year-old Great Falls Man who went missing over the weekend. Brener is roughly 150 pounds and has gray hair and brown eyes. [Fairfax County Police Department]
Silver Line Construction Prompts Closures — Access to several lanes and ramps will be limited this week due to ongoing construction, including Sunrise Valley Drive, Sunset Hills Road, and Herndon Parkway. [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]
Photo by Caroline Causey/Flickr
Why Phase Two of the Silver Line Has More Problems — “Officials were confident construction of Phase 2 would be much smoother. They were using a different contractor, there were fewer construction challenges, and they had learned many lessons from the first phase. Fast-forward five years, and construction of the final portion of the $5.8 billion rail line, which was expected to be wrapped up next month, may not be completed until next spring or summer. Trains that were originally set to begin running in January probably won’t start carrying passengers until mid-to-late 2020.” [The Washington Post]
INOVA Blood Drive in the Area Today — The bloodmobile will be parked at the pavilion in RTC from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. today. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 1-866-256-6372 or in-person. [Reston Town Center]
Dive into Disaster Preparedness — Receive basic training on how to prepare for local disasters and hazards, as well as basic disaster response skills, at the county’s Fire and Rescue Academy. Classes will take place between August and September on Mondays and Wednesdays from 7-11 p.m. [Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department]
Farmers & Makers Market is Today — Local farmers and artisans come to Reston Town Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m to sell a variety of items. The market ends in November. [Reston Town Center]
Photo by Mike Reyes
Lane Closures This Week — Work on phase two of the Silver Line will prompt several lane and ramp closures this week, including Herndon Parkway, Edmund Halley Drive, Sunrise Valley Drive and Sunset Hills Road. [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]
If Farsi Is Your Tongue — Fairfax County is seeking volunteers who speak Farsi to help older adults in the community with their groceries. Volunteers are needed in Reston twice a month on weekends or weekdays. [Fairfax County Government]
Feedback on I-95 Corridor Study Sought — “The Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment, the Virginia Department of Transportation, and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation, under the leadership of the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB), are developing a plan to study Virginia’s 179 miles of the Interstate 95 corridor between the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Alexandria, Virginia and the North Carolina border.” [Virginia Department of Transportation]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Silver Line Construction Snag Could Delay Opening — The contractor responding for building the new rail yard near Dulles Airport revealed their latest schedule slipped 67 days in just one month. The estimated completion date is now set for late July 2020. [WTOP]
Project to Widen Route 7 from Tysons to Reston Breaks Ground — The project held its groundbreaking ceremony yesterday (Thursday). It would add a third lane from Leesburg Pike in each direction from Reston to Tysons. [Tysons Reporter]
Triple Left Lane Closure Overnight on the Dulles Toll Road Next Week — Drivers should expect 20-minute stoppages nightly from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Wednesday, June 19 through the morning of Monday, June 24. [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
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.
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
Hunter Mill Supervisor Candidates’ Forum To Take Place Today — Reston Citizens Association is hosting a forum after Reston Community Center at Lake Anne today from 7-9 p.m. Moderators will lead the discussion, but questions will be accepted from the audience. [Reston Citizens Association]
Brookfield Platform Gives Access Across 13 Buildings — Brookfield Properties is rolling out a new platform that gives office tenants across a 13-building portfolio, including several buildings in Reston like Halley Rise and Summit II. [Bisnow]
Silver Line Phase Two Construction Prompts Lane and Ramp Closures –– Several lanes will be closed through Saturday this week, including parts of Herndon Parkway, Sunrise Valley Drive, Sunset Hills Road and Dulles Toll Road. A complete list of closures is available online. [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]
Flickr pool photo by vantagehill