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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Wiehle-Reston East Garage (via Fairfax Connector)

The Wiehle-Reston East Metro station will be closed during the weekend of Oct. 23 and 24 so crews can work to connect the first and second phase of the Silver Line.

This will be the second time in six months that the station has been shut down so the two phases can be tied together after work and tests related to signal infrastructure were not completed in June as expected, necessitating another shutdown.

If the work is completed as hoped this time, it will be a major milestone for the $2.8 billion Silver Line Phase 2 project, potentially putting it on track for substantial completion by November.

The scheduled shutdown was added to Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) track work page shortly after officials delivered an update on the project to the WMATA board yesterday (Thursday).

Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) spokesperson Marcia McAllister said in an email to Reston Now that the scheduling of the shutdown for late October is “great news.”

“Now that a date has been set for the service outage needed to allow completion of the tie-in between Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the Silver Line, the Airports Authority and our contractors can get this essential work done in October and move the project toward substantial completion,” McAllister wrote.

Substantial completion refers to the point when MWAA will be ready to hand the project to WMATA. The authority previously set Labor Day weekend as the deadline but acknowledged in July that it wouldn’t meet that timeline.

At the board meeting, WMATA officials said they were comfortable with MWAA setting a new substantial completion deadline for the end of this year, stating that the work will most likely be finished in November.

If that is the case, Metro will still need another five to six months of operational readiness testing and pre-revenue activities, but that could mean the Silver Line Phase 2 will open to riders by May 2022.

However, in MWAA’s most recent monthly report, the project’s contractor Capital Rail Constructors proposed a substantial date of May 19, 2022, which could push the opening all the way to late 2022. It wasn’t the first time that the two parties disagreed on the project’s schedule.

Shortly after the report was released, though, CRC project executive Keith Couth told Reston Now that there were “opportunities through collaboration” to improve on that date and get it completed much sooner.

When reached for comment, Couch reiterated that they are working to finish by the end of 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 said. “In collaboration with MWAA and WMATA, we are working together to improve on the schedule, targeting a substantial completion in Q4.”

With the Wiehle shutdown now scheduled and the contractor supportive of a hoped-for 2021 substantial completion date, Silver Line Phase 2 is seemingly back on track after years of delays that have frustrated local officials, residents, and businesses alike.

“Level F” testing — meaning testing with actual trains — also began late last month and is going well, according to WMATA officials.

The nearly $3 billion project will extend Metro’s Silver Line from the Wiehle-Reston East station west to Ashburn in Loudoun County. In total, six new stations will be added, including one at Reston Town Center and two in Herndon.

Construction began back in 2014 and was originally supposed to finish in 2018.

Photo via Fairfax Connector

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A newly proposed timeline for Silver Line Phase 2 pushes the date for substantial completion of the project to May 19, 2022, nearly one month later than previously suggested.

The date comes from contractor Capital Rail Constructors and was included in the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s July monthly report, which was finished on Aug. 26 and released on Wednesday (Sept. 1).

Like before, MWAA says in its report that it disagrees with the contractor’s projected “longest path” timeline.

“Based on the remainder of work to be accomplished, the Airports Authority believes that the Substantial Completion date can be accomplished within Q4 2021,” the report says.

The business was contractually obligated to complete the project in August 2019, MWAA spokesperson Marcia McAllister said.

A phase known as Level F testing began this week and could last several weeks, she said. While components work on their own, this process helps ensure that the entire system works together.

“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,” Keith Couch, project executive for Capital Rail Constructors, said in a statement.

The Wiehle-Reston East Metro station was shut down for a weekend in late June so workers could tie together the Silver Line’s first and second phases, but some tests were not completed over those two days, so another outage is needed.

WMATA says it typically provides information about planned track work about eight weeks in advance. As of today (Friday), no notice about a Wiehle station shutdown has been posted.

While the new timeline extends the substantial completion date from April 21 to May 19, Capital Rail Constructors suggested that the completion could shift to this year.

“While based on the information available at this time our schedule shows a May 2022 substantial completion date, there are opportunities through collaboration with MWAA and WMATA to improve on that date and complete the project by October of this year,” Couch said in the statement.

Matt Letourneau, a Loudoun County supervisor on the WMATA board of directors, said yesterday (Thursday) at a Northern Virginia Transportation Commission meeting that despite the contractor placing the substantial completion date into 2022, the Airports Authority has not changed its fall 2021 timeline.

The $2.8 billion project will extend Metro’s Silver Line from the Wiehle station westward to Ashburn in Loudoun County, adding six new stations along the Dulles Toll Road.

Substantial completion represents the moment when MWAA will be ready to hand the 23-mile extension over to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Officials previously expected Metro to take control of the project by Labor Day, but MWAA admitted in early July that it won’t make that deadline.

After the substantial completion, it will still take at least half a year before the line can begin operating publicly, since Metro needs to conduct its own testing, training, and other activities, a WMATA presentation in July noted.

Preliminary construction for Phase 2 began in 2014. It was originally supposed to open in 2018.

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Morning Notes

A dog cools off under some greenery (via vantagehill/Flickr)

Reminder: Excessive Heat Watch Takes Effect Today — Fairfax County and the rest of the D.C. area will be under an Excessive Heat Watch from noon to 8 p.m. The heat index could reach 105 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, so the National Weather Service advises drinking plenty of fluids, staying inside as much as possible, and checking up on neighbors and relatives. [NWS]

Hunters Woods Garden Thieves Resurface — Thieves that reportedly stole thousands of dollars in plants and other materials from two community garden plots at Hunters Woods Park in May have returned with the harvest season. Reston Association increased security around the gardens, including the installation of fencing and flood lights with sensors, but the culprits evidently have not been deterred from stealing vegetables. [Patch]

No Trespassing at Silver Line Phase 2 Stations — The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority issued a reminder that, while Metro’s six impending Silver Line stations look finished, they are still closed “because of ongoing construction work and potential safety hazards.” MWAA maintains that they will “most likely” open in early 2022, but there is some conflict over the timeline with the project’s contractor. [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]

County Board Endorses Dog Park Study — The Fairfax County Park Authority Board gave its support on July 28 to a countywide dog park study that calls for at least one new park and highlights concerns about inattentive visitors, insufficient water, and surface conditions at existing parks. A draft version of the study came out in March, and the full, final report will become available next month. [FCPA]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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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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(Updated 12:20 p.m.) A new restaurant and day spa are opening nearby the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station around the holiday season.

Eve’s Garden Lounge & Bar and Emiline’s Day Spa are opening next to each other at the new Faraday Park development at 1831 Michael Faraday Drive, about a 10-minute walk from the Metro station. Both businesses are from the same ownership group, which also own Alo Vietnam in Herndon.

The businesses will open sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, co-owner Don Lee confirmed to Reston Now. They will occupy two 1,746 square-foot spaces — about 3,600 square feet in total — and operate next to each other.

“We were supposed to have construction late last year, but that was delayed because of COVID. So, we just started construction,” Lee said in June.

The day spa will offer services for both men and women like pedicures, facial treatments, hair salon, and massages.

The restaurant has yet to reveal its menu, but Lee says it will be similar to Herndon’s Alo Vietnam, which offers modernized Vietnamese fare like pho, banh mi, and rice vermicelli. The difference, Lee says, is that Eva’s will be “more Asian fusion and focus more on presentation and will be higher end.”

Lee told Reston Now in June that the ownership group’s ultimate goal is to have a business located within walking distance of all the Silver Line stations, extending out to Dulles Airport.

Alo Vietnam opened within a five-minute walk of the future Innovation Center Metro station in late 2019 in anticipation of Silver Line Phase 2’s opening. Of course, the line has yet to open, leaving businesses like Alo Vietnam in the lurch.

Lee hoped that, by being near a Metro station, the business would be buoyed by commuters, office workers, and tourists.

“We did invest in 2019…thinking that we will carry the load the first year until the Metro opens,” Lee said in June. “Then, we will have a good location with a lot of foot traffic with tourists and from all the businesses around.”

But between the long-delayed $2.8 billion public transportation project and the pandemic, that dream has yet to be realized for Lee and Alo Vietnam. Now, Silver Line Phase 2 is looking like it may not open until mid-2022.

When Eva’s Garden Lounge & Bar and Emiline’s Day Spa opens in Reston by the end of the year, they will be the first of Lee’s businesses to be open near a currently operating Metro station.

The businesses are two of four confirmed retailers coming to Faraday Park, which opened one residential tower for move-ins in April with a second tower expected to be completed in the next few months. The gym F45 and the salon A+ Nails are the others.

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Morning Notes

Lake Anne (via vantagehill/Flickr)

Fairfax County Gave Republican Governor Nominee Tax Break — “GOP gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin and his wife last year successfully petitioned Fairfax County to designate their horse farm as an agricultural district, which led to a 95% reduction in the taxes they pay on the 31.5-acre property in Great Falls that surrounds their home.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch]

Material Costs Drive Up Silver Line Phase 2 Costs — “The Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority is having to pay an extra $20 million to cover the higher cost of materials needed to build the extension of Metro’s Silver Line…So far, the construction’s progress has eaten up $2.464 billion, but the airports authority maintains the [$2.778 billion] budget won’t change, thanks to contingency funds.” [Washington Business Journal]

County Redistricting Committee to Meet Next Week — Fairfax County’s 20-person Redistricting Advisory Committee will hold its first meeting on Tuesday (July 27) at 6 p.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center. Open to the public, the meeting will focus on legal requirements, equity, and bylaws as the group prepares to recommend new electoral boundaries for the county’s supervisor and school board districts. [Fairfax County Government]

Reston Hospital Hires New Executive — Allyssa Tobitt will serve as Reston Hospital Center’s new chief operating officer starting Aug. 2. Replacing Ben Brown, who moved to Dominion Hospital in West Falls Church, she worked at the corporate office of Reston Hospital’s parent company HCA Healthcare in Nashville, Tennessee as well as at hospitals in its for-profit health system near Miami and Tampa, Florida. [HCA]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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The Herndon Metro station (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The Labor Day deadline for “substantial completion” of Silver Line Phase 2 won’t be met, Metro staff acknowledged at a Board of Directors safety and operations committee meeting today (Thursday).

The presentation confirmed what the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) told Fairfax County earlier this month.

At this point, it remains unknown when the project will be substantially completed and able to be turned over to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). The expected delay will likely push the opening date even further back.

“There hasn’t been a new substantial completion day published [by MWAA],” said Andy Off, Metro’s vice president of project implementation and construction. “But we are confident it’s going to get moved past Labor Day.”

The latest delay of the $2.8 billion public transportation project stems from the need for more testing and work to tie Silver Line’s first and second phases together. That will require another shutdown of Wiehle-Reston East Metro station, much like the one that happened late last month.

“There are specific tests that were not completed over that weekend that necessitated a further shutdown,” Off said. “We are currently working with MWAA to schedule that.”

Reston Now reached out to MWAA about when that station shutdown will happen but has to hear back as of publication.

Off assured committee members that the delay has nothing to do with concrete issues or any other major safety concern.

“Right now, it’s really an IT project as it relates to our signal infrastructure,” Off said.

Once the Wiehle-Reston East outage gets scheduled and the work is completed, Off said there will be a better idea of a substantial completion date, with “fall” being as specific as he can get at this juncture.

Metro will need about six months from substantial completion to complete testing and “pre-revenue activities,” including trainings and further testing, which is contractually obligated to take no longer than 90 days, according to a presentation to Fairfax County Board of Supervisors transportation committee last month.

A Labor Day hand-off would have put Silver Line Phase 2 on track to open in the first quarter of 2022, but now, operations likely won’t begin until later that year. The project will extend Metro from Reston into Loudoun County with six new stations.

At the WMATA board committee meeting, officials emphasized that this delay is unrelated to any problem. There’s simply a need for more testing time.

“It’s not unusual to have several tests planned and just not have the amount of time as you need,” rail safety expert Devin Rouse, who’s on the Metro board, said. “If anything significant does come up, that’s a discussion we really need to have. At this point, this is normal for these types of projects.”

While officials have downplayed this particular delay, it follows a long line of Silver Line Phase 2 holdups that have frustrated residents and businesses waiting for the multi-billion-dollar public transporation project, which was initially set to open in 2018.

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The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) will not meet its Labor Day deadline for substantial completion of Silver Line Phase 2, likely pushing back the opening of the long-delayed $2.8 billion project yet again.

The announcement came in the final minutes of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ transportation committee meeting earlier this week.

The delay is related to the work done this past weekend (June 26-27) to tie together the Silver Line’s second phase with the operating first phase at Wiehle-Reston East Metro station, forcing the station to close.

“We were made aware that the tie-in between Phase 1 and Phase 2, which was partially done this weekend, will actually need an additional weekend,” Martha Elena Coello, special projects division chief for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, told the committee.

She noted that this was different information than what was in the presentation that had been prepared for the meeting.

“That will impact the substantial completion day of Labor Day and the magnitude of that impact has not been determined yet,” she said. “We expect to have that information within two weeks.”

An MWAA spokesperson confirmed that this is the case.

While MWAA told Reston Now last week that an additional weekend and a second shutdown of the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station will be needed to complete the work, it wasn’t clear how it would affect the timeline of the entire project.

Now, it’s clear that MWAA will not be handing over the project to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) by Labor Day weekend, which is only eight weeks from now. At this point, it is unknown when completion and hand-off could take place.

Metro needs about six months from substantial completion to complete testing and open the system, according to the presentation to the county board’s transportation committee.

With a Labor Day hand-off, Silver Line Phase 2 could reasonably be assumed to open in early March 2022. Now, the operating date could be pushed further into spring or even later.

When asked what work was completed last weekend and what still needs to be done, MWAA spokesperson Marcia McAllister told Reston Now by email that it was mostly electrical tasks:

This past weekend, the connection of the Traction Power system between Phase 2 of the Silver Line and the existing Metrorail system was successfully completed at the Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail Station. In addition, work was done to connect the Automatic Train Control System (ATC).The work was done by crews from Capital Rail Construction (CRC) and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) working closely together. The Airports Authority is now reviewing the work that remains to be done at the ATC tie-in prior to completion of the rail line and is assessing any schedule impacts.

She added in a follow-up that additional work still needs to be done, but a date has not been set for the next outage and shutdown of the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station.

Overall, Phase 2 is 99% completed, but even beyond the tie-in, there remains work still to be done around third-rail insulators, station platform pavings, and more.

However, Coello noted at the meeting that a majority of this work needs to be completed by revenue service and can be done after MWAA’s handoff to WMATA.

This is far from the first delay to beset the Silver Line’s second phase, which was initially set to be completed in 2018. The project will extend Metro from Reston into Loudoun County with six new stations.

The timeline has been prolonged by contractor issues, design changes, flawed materials, defective panels, and bad concrete, testing the patience and viability of a number of local Reston and Herndon businesses that intentionally set up shop near the stations.

Now, businesses, residents, and the region are going to have to wait at least a little bit longer for Silver Line Phase 2 to finally open.

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Wiehle-Reston East Metro station garage (photo by Fairfax Connector)

(Updated at 3:30 p.m.) The Wiehle-Reston East Metro station will be closed this weekend (June 25-26) so workers can connect the first and second phases of the Silver Line.

Most of the work being done this weekend is electrical and technological, as opposed to construction, says Marcia McAllister, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

“The work to be done this week by MWAA and CRC (our contractor) will make the permanent power connections between Phase 2 and the existing WMATA system,” wrote McAllister in an email to Reston Now. “This connection is at the Wiehle-Reston station which is the current end of the Silver Line.”

Additional testing will also be done this weekend.

Metro will provide free shuttle buses throughout the weekend to transport passengers between Wiehle-Reston East and the Spring Hill station in Tysons, the closest stop on the Silver Line, MWAA says.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has called the task of connecting the two phases of its Silver Line rail a major benchmark and potential challenge of the project.

McAllister noted that this closure is an expected part of the process as MWAA prepares to hand over the project to WMATA in September.

Another outage — meaning potential additional closures — will be needed prior to that fall turnover, writes McAllister, but a date for that has yet to be determined.

“At this time, this weekend’s shutdown at Wiehle-Reston East is the only closure scheduled during the next 8 weeks with regard to Silver Line Phase 2,” Metro spokesperson Sherri Ly told Reston Now.

Silver Line Phase 2 appears to be still on track to open in the first quarter of 2022, though officials previously cautioned that the timeline is subject to change.

The long-delayed $2.8 billion project originally had a completion date of 2018. But design changes, defective panels, contractor issues, flawed rail ties, and bad concrete all contributed to the nearly four-year delay, which has tested the patience of some local businesses in Herndon and Reston.

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New images show what future residents and visitors can expect from a $1.4 billion project near a forthcoming Reston Town Center Metro station.

As first reported by the Washington Business Journal, developer Brookfield Properties has released more details on the upscale housing coming to the Halley Rise residential, office, and retail complex under construction along Reston Parkway.

Preleasing for apartments in The Edmund — a seven-story apartment building with 353 luxury units — is slated to begin this summer before residents are welcomed in the fall, the developer tells Reston Now.

“As we meet this next major milestone, we’re a step closer to creating a visionary neighborhood that blends nature, technology, entertainment, and art, enabling residents, workers and visitors to curate their ideal day every day, in a vibrant and engaging community,” Greg Meyer, executive vice president and head of the D.C. region for Brookfield Properties, said in a statement.

The Edmund will feature common areas and outdoor seating as well as a pool, fitness center, coworking space, yoga lawn, and more. An interactive virtual tour offers a glimpse of one of the 1,600 units expected at the 36-acre mixed-used campus.

The luxury apartments will include mostly one-bedroom apartments, with 17% of the units being studios, 17% two bedrooms, and 3% three bedrooms, Brookfield Properties U.S. communications director Laura Montross said in an email.

Rental details are not yet listed with the developer’s website.

When completed, Halley Rise will have 1.9 million square feet of office space (about five and a half times the size of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool), 240,000 square feet of retail (just over four football fields), over five acres of public open space, and new public streets.

The development will be anchored by a Wegmans grocery store slated to arrive in 2023, slightly later than the late 2022 timeline that Reston Now last reported.

Real estate developer Akridge is looking to add 480 residential units and retail as part of the complex. That addition is currently scheduled to go before the Fairfax County Planning Commission for approval on Dec. 8.

Construction for Halley Rise began in October 2019, and it’s already showing off one of its amenities: self-driving vehicles within the complex. The service has also expanded in the DC region.

Halley Rise is one of several developments in the works in anticipation of the second phase of Metro’s Silver Line. Also near the impending Reston Town Center station, Boston Properties is working on the massive Reston Gateway project, which is undergoing some changes that were set to go before the Board of Supervisors today (Tuesday).

The board’s meeting package indicates that it will defer the public hearing on that application until July 13.

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Paul Olsen opened a second location of Weird Brothers Coffee at Worldgate Metro Plaza in October 2019.

The shopping center on Worldgate Drive was specifically marketed and named in anticipation of the Herndon Metro Station opening less than a quarter of a mile away as part of the Silver Line’s second phase.

Two years later, the Herndon station and the other Silver Line Phase II stops still won’t be operational for at least another eight months.

“At the time, we weren’t even considering expansion,” Olsen tells Reston Now. “We saw the Metro and…figured this is a great situation. But, then, obviously things changed. COVID hit a few months later. Then, we saw more Metro line delays.”

Weird Brothers Coffee on Worldgate Boulevard in Herndon (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Olsen’s situation isn’t unique. Many businesses specifically set up shop near a future Silver Line Phase II Metro station thinking it would provide a boost, only for Metro’s opening to be continuously delayed.

“We initially thought that the Metro would open, at the latest, early 2020,” said Don Lee, co-owner of Alo Vietnam Restaurant in Herndon.

The restaurant is about a five-minute walk from the not-yet-opened Innovation Center Metro station. Alo Vietnam is also expected to start a location in Reston at Faraday Park.

“We did invest in 2019…thinking that we will carry the load the first year until the Metro opens,” Lee said. “Then, we will have a good location with a lot of foot traffic with tourists and from all the businesses around.”

Seven years ago this July, the most expensive transportation project in the D.C. region’s history began operations. The opening of the Silver Line and its five new stops brought Metro into Tysons and up to the Wiehle-Reston East station.

However, the intention was always to extend the transit system further into D.C.’s growing Northern Virginia suburbs. Construction on five additional stations, including one at Reston Town Center and two in Herndon, began even before Phase I opened and originally had a completion date of 2018.

However, issues proliferated, from design changes and defective panels to flawed rail ties and bad concrete. Soon, the opening got pushed to early 2020, but the problems kept coming and coming. Read More

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Silver Line test trains (Photo by Chuck Samuelson/Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project)

Metro service changes announced last week — including increased services, late night hours, and reduced fares — are being praised by many in the community.

On Thursday (June 10), the Metro Board approved a host of improvements with the intention of luring back riders after more than a year of reduced services and free-falling ridership.

The changes include more frequent service during both peak and non-peak times, extending operating hours until 1 a.m. on weekends, a flat $2 weekend rate, and free transfers between bus and rail.

The changes will take effect starting Labor Day weekend, the traditional end of the summer.

“These are all very positive changes,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn told Reston Now. “The only thing that made these service improvements possible is the money from our federal partners. Because Congress stepped up and delivered, we’re able to make these service improvements and, frankly, do what needs to be done to help build back ridership.”

Metro received nearly $723 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds, including $193 million from the American Rescue Plan enacted in March. These funds not only prevented severe cuts, but allowed Metro to increase services while cutting fares.

Local labor unions are also pleased with the changes, including ATU Local 689, which represents more than 10,000 regional transit workers and said it “strongly supports” the service increases.

“We know that public transit is a safe and effective way for riders to get where they need to go, but we have to do the work to rebuild rider confidence,” ATU Local 689 President Raymond Jackson wrote in an email to Reston Now. “The first step to this is making sure that passengers know there will always be a bus or train there for them when they need it. That requires full service. We’re proud that WMATA took this step.”

Alcorn says that, during the pandemic, cuts to service were a “significant hardship” for those who couldn’t work from home, like hospitality workers, who often need rail and bus service at different times than those in other industries.

“We realized that, in the middle of the pandemic, that there’s still a lot of folks that depend on transit to get to work and to do what they need to do to get around,” Alcorn said.

John Boardman is executive secretary and treasurer for Local 25, a union that represents about 7,000 people who work in hotels, casinos, and restaurants in the D.C. metro region. He says expanding services is inherently beneficial to their members.

“Our jobs are not 9 to 5 jobs. They start early in the morning and can go late into night,” Boardman said. “More transportation and longer hours helps our workforce. Reliable transportation is one of the issues that affects people’s ability to get back to work.”

Increased service and fare cuts will also greatly benefit those most vulnerable in the community, such as the clients the D.C. Reentry Action Network, a regional organization that assists people being released from prison.

“Any reduction in the cost of transportation would contribute greatly to reducing the already tremendous hurdles one faces when returning home,” founder Paula Thompson told The Washington Post.

Metro admits it could still take years for ridership to return to pre-pandemic levels. A graph presented at the transit agency’s June 10 board of directors meeting estimates that even by the end of 2024, ridership may still be off by as much as 25% from late 2019 levels.

But it’s hoped that these changes could at least spur gradual growth. Read More

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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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If Metro’s board of directors adopts the proposed Fiscal Year 2022 approved by its finance and capital committee yesterday (Thursday), the start of service on the second phase of the Silver Line will officially be delayed until next year.

The $4.7 billion operating and capital budget moves the start date for Silver Line Phase 2 from July 1, 2021 — as stated in the FY 2021 operating budget — to January 2022 at the earliest, citing the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority’s expectation that it will be ready to hand over the project to Metro by Labor Day.

The budget also defers an additional $43.1 million subsidy contribution to the project until FY 2023, though $20 million will still be included in FY 2022 “to mitigate Silver Line Phase 2 service equity impacts,” according to the budget summary.

“We are preparing to welcome back customers as part of a return to normalcy, and welcome new customers who have long awaited the convenience of the Silver Line and new stations serving their communities and workplaces,” Metro General Manager and CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld said. “I am especially looking forward to beginning rail service to Dulles Airport as people resume travel to and from the nation’s capital as one of the great destinations in this country.”

Metro and MWAA officials stated as recently as January that construction on the second phase of the Silver Line, which will extend the transit system from Reston into Loudoun County, would be finished this spring, putting it on track to potentially start service in the fall of 2021.

However, the project continues to be plagued by construction issues that need to be resolved before the Metropolitan Washington Area Transit Authority will take over and begin testing.

In addition to delaying funding for the Silver Line, the proposed budget keeps rail and bus service at their current service levels, which are, respectively, at 80 and 85% of their pre-pandemic service levels.

Significant service and personnel cuts that were previously on the table have been averted, thanks to the infusion of $722.9 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds. That includes $193.4 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) enacted by Congress in March.

“The impact of the pandemic on ridership and revenue forced us to consider drastic cuts that would have been necessary absent federal relief funding,” Metro Board Chair Paul Smedberg said. “Thankfully, the American Rescue Plan Act has provided a lifeline for Metro to serve customers and support the region’s economic recovery.”

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn expressed relief that the federal relief funds will save Metro from making the proposed cuts, which could have included the closure of 19 existing rail stations and three unopened ones on the Silver Line.

“While the WMATA board is working to finalize the FY2022 budget, the Silver Line Phase 2 will now open whenever it is ready and because of the federal funds all Metrorail stations will stay open,” Alcorn said in a statement to Reston Now.

WMATA says it received more than 22,400 responses during the public comment period on the FY 2022 budget, which lasted from Feb. 20 to March 16. That is the most comments the transit agency has gotten on a budget proposal in the past 10 years.

WMATA’s board of directors is scheduled to give final approval to the proposed FY 2022 budget on April 22. The fiscal year will begin on July 1 and last until June 30, 2022.

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