Metro Board Flags Problems with Silver Line Extension 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

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Fairfax Officials Raise Concerns About Silver Line Phase 2 Safety

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

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Monday Morning Notes

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

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Ahead of 2020 Opening, Herndon Metro Station Sign Installed

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

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Report: Here’s When the Silver Line Extension is Expected to Open

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.

File photo

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Monday Morning Notes

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

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Tuesday Morning Notes

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

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Monday Morning Notes

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

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Friday Morning Notes

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

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Silver Line Ties Remain Unfixed for Now

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

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

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

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

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

File photo

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MWAA: More Drivers Using Dulles Toll Road Than Expected After Toll Increase

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

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

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

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

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

Photo via MWAA

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Tuesday Morning Notes

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

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Monday Morning Notes

Contractor Identifies New Problems with Silver Line Phase Two — “The contractor building Phase 2 of the Silver Line has identified another problem with the beleaguered project. This time it’s at the Dulles Airport station, where concrete pedestals designed to support the two-story structure’s glass walls and windscreens are cracking because they were built without proper internal reinforcement.” [The Washington Post]

Famous Toastery Now Open— The breakfast-focused North Carolina-based chain opened on Saturday (April 13) at RTC West (12100 Sunset Hills Road). Diane and Gary Reedy, both Reston natives, are the owners of the new Reston location.[Reston Patch]

Indian Restaurant Opens Today — Bombay Velvet will join other restaurants at RTC West. The chef and entrepreneur behind the venture, Rajiv Chopra, describes the new business as an “upscale” business that brings new tastes to the area. The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner today. [DC Eater]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Thursday Morning Notes

Herndon student makes honors choir — A student from Herndon Middle School, along with 79 other students from Fairfax County public schools, has been selected by the Virginia Choral Directors Association to perform at the All-Virginia Middle School Honors Choir event scheduled for April 4-6. [FCPS]

Millennials book club — Today, adults in their early 20s and 30s can discuss “Carry On, Jeeves” by PG Wodehouse at the Reston Regional Library from 7-8:30 p.m. [Fairfax County]

What’s up with the Silver Line? — A series of stories by Bisnow is looking at how little of the Silver Line expansion is built as it nears its debut and the developments slated to pop up around the Metro area. [Bisnow]

Restonian bringing laughs to Herndon — Dark Horse Theatre Company will present the regional premiere of the dark comedy, “The Value of Moscow,” by  Amy Dellagiarino, who grew up in Reston and is a South Lakes High School alumna, on April 12-27 at ArtSpace Herndon. [Connection Newspapers]

Photo courtesy Layna Cook

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After ‘Difficult’ Decision to Retire, Hudgins Shares Priorities for Year

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins used her newsletter this month to give a glimpse into her “difficult decision” behind her decision to not run for re-election to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Hudgins, who is nearing the end of her fifth term, was first elected to the board in 1999. Her retirement announcement came during the Board of Supervisors meeting last month, adding to the list of supervisors who have also said they are leaving.

Now in her 20th year on the board, Hudgins used the newsletter as an opportunity to share her priorities for a “vigorous” year, including renewable energy and Silver Line Phase 2’s progress.

Here is her full note:

Dear Hunter Mill Friends,

On Jan. 22, during the first Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting in 2019, I was struck by the thought: I am beginning my 20th year as Hunter Mill Supervisor with the mixed emotions of excitement and joy in serving the community and the reality that even good things must end. At that moment, I felt compelled to speak and share my intention not to seek reelection to be the Hunter Mill District representative. Believe me it was a difficult decision and an equally difficult announcement. However, I do intend to have a vigorous 20th year and continue to enjoy the kind of work that we’ve been able to do with this board.

One thing that will greatly contribute to a vigorous year is an improved public transit system, connecting the Metrorail system to Dulles International Airport and points in Loudoun County. I am excited to share that the first trains rolled along the Silver Line Phase 2 tracks around 1 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 6. The test train traveled from Wiehle-Reston Station to Innovation Station at a speed of about 15 mph! There is an interesting story behind that spectacular speed. Because the third rail is not yet electrified for this test, the trains were pushed by a small diesel locomotive. Once the rail polishing phase — necessary to remove rust that can accumulate on unused rails — is complete, additional trains, equipped for Safe-Braking and Control-Line Communications trials, will begin the “dynamic testing” process. This is required before the rail line begins commercial operation.

This testing work, is a significant milestone and will continue for several months before public service commences in 2020.

Another area of significant relevance and impact is the environment. In 2017, the BOS adopted an Environmental Vision “to promote and encourage energy efficiency and conservation efforts and renewable energy initiatives by county employees, employers and residents.” In 2018, the board adopted an Energy Strategy for county operations with the goal of
reducing “fossil fuel consumption through the application of innovative concepts & technologies.” In 2019, the BOS is raising awareness of its achievements already made — two Solarize campaigns conducting free on-site solar assessments that led solar panel installations, totaling 398 kW — and the county commitment to a third campaign in the spring of 2019. With the assistance of the SolSmart program, we will do just that. SolSmart is a national designation program for solar friendly communities, their commitments, and their accomplishments.

Moreover, Fairfax County is committed to improve solar market conditions, making it faster, easier and more affordable for residents and businesses to install solar energy systems. Currently, the county is considering the creation of a local Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program. Depending on the ordinance language, a C-PACE loan
could finance energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements on industrial, commercial, agricultural, multi-family and non-profit/religious properties. So as you can surmise, it will be another busy year.

In closing, I would like to acknowledge that representing the Hunter Mill District continues to be challenging and thrilling and I am looking forward to a dynamic 2019 indeed. It is an ongoing honor to serve and I fully intend to continue being engaged with the work of the community.

— Cathy Hudgins

File photo

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