Morning Notes

Snow Days to Stay — The Fairfax County Public Schools System is resuming snow days this year after the pandemic changed the school system’s inclement weather policy. The first five snowy days will be traditional inclement weather days. But after that, the school system plans to have unscheduled virtual learning days “wherever possible.” [FCPS]

Metro Hires Consultants to Analyze Safety — The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Board of Directors plans to hire an external consultant to offer advice on safety. The move comes a week after the derailment of a Metrorail train on the Blue Line. [Reston Patch]

Reston Company Raises $4.5 Million in Seed Round — ForecastEra, Reston-based company, formally announced a new seed round investment of $4.5 million. The company offers a account planning, sales, revenue and demand forecast suite that is native to Salesforce. [InsideNOVA]

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Morning Notes

Reduced Metro Service Today — Expect reduced Metro service today as the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority investigates the recent Blue Line derailment. Metro is holding all of its 7000-series railcars — nearly 60 percent of its rail fleet — out of service. A safety investigation found defects in one of the railcars involved in last Tuesday’s derailment. [WMATA]

Elden Street Business Robbed — Police are looking for a suspect who robbed a business on the 500 block of Elden Street yesterday morning. The man was seen leaving in a red four-door Honda or Toyota. [Herndon Police Department]

Lane and Ramp Closures in Effect on Dulles Toll Road — A number of lane, shoulder and road closures are in effect this week along the Dulles Toll Road, Dulles Greenway and Autopilot Drive. [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]

Photo by Marjorie Copson

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As Silver Line Phase 2 slowly pulls into the station of completion, local officials are expressing their frustration at constant delays and missed deadlines.

In a brief update at yesterday’s (Sept. 28) Fairfax County Transportation Committee meeting, it was reiterated that Silver Line Phase 2 is expected to be substantially completed by the end of the year.

“In our discussions with [Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority], they are holding, at the moment, to the fourth quarter of 2021,” said Martha Elena Coello, special projects division chief for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

There are currently only two unresolved issues, according to a slideshow presented at the meeting, both of which are at the railyard and do not need to be resolved for substantial completion.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said he was hopeful that meant MWAA would be handing over the project to Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority [WMATA] in late October, after the planned outage at Wiehle-East Reston Metro Station to tie-in the two lines. That work was supposed to be completed in June.

If the project does hit this new deadline, it would still be two months from a previous missed Labor Day deadline and years beyond the initial completion date.

Alcorn and others at the meeting showed their frustration at how Silver Line Phase 2 has been besieged by constant delays.

“This is four years overdue from the original date,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay. “To not express some frustration here… would be a mistake. I think all of us are very frustrated.”

Alcorn also was noticeably exasperated at the pace of the project.

“Our next meeting of the transportation committee is December 14. We better have substantial completion by then,” he said.

In response, MWAA acknowledges the disappointment that many have about the delays.

“We understand the frustrations of everybody, elected officials and public alike,” MWAA spokesperson Marcia McAllister told Reston Now. “Our goal is to proceed with the [October] outage, evaluate the work that is done that weekend, and make decisions as soon as possible.”

McAllister also reiterated that MWAA is “holding on to fourth quarter 2021” as a timeline for substantial completion.

In multiple previous MWAA reports, it was revealed that there were significant disagreements between MWAA and the contractor Capital Rail Constructors (CRC) on the timeline.

While MWAA said it would be completed by the end of the year, CRC said spring 2022.

But now, CRC seems to be backing off their timeline, noting that increased collaboration with the authorities have quickened the pace.

“We are working together with MWAA and WMATA on coordinating and finalizing testing to target substantial completion of the Silver Line Phase 2A in Q4,” CRC project executive Keith Couch wrote in a statement to Reston Now.

Even if Silver Line Phase 2 is substantially completed by late October, as noted in the presentation provided to the committee, WMATA will still need approximately six months to complete testing, pre-revenue preparations, and to open the system to riders.

That could mean an opening date of April or May  2022.

The $2.8 billion public transportation project will include six new stations, extending Metro from Reston to Loudoun County.

It remains a potential game changer for the region, though many with financial investment connected to the project have grown understandably impatient.

“A lot of folks have contributed substianal money to making this happen,” said McKay at the transportation committee meeting. “And they are sitting here, waiting for service.”

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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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Starting over Labor Day weekend, transfers between Metro trains and Fairfax Connector buses will be free.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) said yesterday (Monday) it has partnered with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to provide free transfers on nearly all Connector bus routes beginning on Sunday (Sept. 5).

This lines up with Metro’s new policy of also offering free bus transfers, which was first announced earlier this month.

“Fairfax Connector has historically aligned fare policies with Metrobus and by doing so, helps create a seamless experience for users when moving between transit services provided by WMATA and the County,” FCDOT spokesperson Robin Geiger wrote in an email. “That’s why we are partnering with WMATA to extend their program to Fairfax Connector bus service to provide good customer service and provide incentives to ride transit.”

The two exceptions will be the Fairfax Connector Express Service and the Wolf Trap shuttle. Both will be discounted by $2, though, with the use of WMATA’s SmarTrip card or app.

This is a pilot program that will operate for the next 10 months, through early July 2022, Geiger says.

Fairfax Connector serves all Metro stations located in Fairfax County. This will include all Silver Line Phase 2 stations once those open, Geiger confirms.

Additionally, the Wolf Trap shuttle will start again operating on Sept. 5. The shuttle runs between the West Falls Church Metro station and Wolf Trap National Park’s Filene Center.

The new policy is part of a larger push to encourage increased ridership on the Fairfax Connector as schools, offices, and other public places reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We hope that when people go back to their workplaces, they consider returning to or trying transit for the first time,” writes Geiger. “Now, is the time to ride because the free transfer from Fairfax Connector to Metrorail or from Metrorail to Fairfax Connector saves money and because Fairfax Connector continues to provide a safe and healthy environment on buses.”

In May, county officials said they were reviewing possibly reducing or even eliminating fares altogether on the Fairfax Connector.

To help with this, the county was planning to apply for grant funds from Virginia’s Transit Ridership Incentive Program. The application deadline for the program is Sept. 17. Geiger says there’s currently no additional information on the possibility of reducing or eliminating fares.

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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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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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Getting to and from Metro stations can be a harrowing experience for pedestrians and cyclists, and the Fairfax County Planning Commission and others want something to be done about it.

The planning commissioners have called on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to require Metro, the state and county transportation departments, and more to “work immediately” to make safety and accessibility improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists to transit stations.

“This is a call for action by the public to improve pedestrian/bicycle access to metro stations as envisioned in the comprehensive plan,” Hunter Mill District Planning Commissioner John Carter said when introducing a motion during the commission’s meeting on May 19.

The measure calls for numerous changes, such as:

  • Providing wide sidewalks at intersections within walking distance of transit stations,
  • Making turns on roads tighter at intersections to slow traffic down,
  • Providing a “double ramp” for people with disabilities instead of single ramp that’s currently in use directing pedestrians to the middle of intersections,
  • Avoiding extra turning lanes at intersections with high volumes of pedestrians
  • Providing closely spaced street trees between curb and sidewalk areas to protect pedestrians.

The motion passed, with 10 members voting for it and at-large member Timothy Sargeant, abstaining. Sargeant did not respond to a message seeking comment on why he voted that way.

“Failure to act will cause pedestrian access to continue to be ‘significantly challenged’ and ridership on the metro station to be reduced,” Carter said.

He introduced the motion during the commission’s discussion on whether to approve changes to the office-residential complex Reston Gateway being constructed, but he noted that the issues seen at Reston’s Metro stations could apply to other locations as well.

Supervisor Walter Alcorn, whose Hunter Mill District includes the Reston Gateway project, agrees that the main crosswalk serving the upcoming Silver Line station at Reston Town Center is not pedestrian-friendly.

“The rail project used cookie-cutter designs,” he said, adding that a walkway over the road has been proposed but could be years away from coming to fruition.

When touring the area a couple weeks ago, Alcorn asked the Fairfax County Department of Transportation to identify short-term improvements to occur before the station opens, which isn’t expected to happen until early 2022.

“I want to make sure riders can readily get to the stations on day one and every day thereafter,” he said.

Pedestrian and bicyclist advocacy groups expressed support for the commission’s call for change. Read More

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(Updated, 4:20 p.m.) Metro’s Board of Directors is set to approve a $4.7 billion capital and operating budget on Thursday (April 22) that includes $723 million in federal relief.

The influx of federal funds essentially renders concerns about drastic service cuts set to come in January 2022 moot. Those cuts would have potentially included closing 22 Metro stations across the system, shutting down Metrorail every day at 9 p.m., and limiting train arrivals to every 30 minutes at most stations.

Among the stations that were being proposed to close in 2022 were three yet-to-be-opened Silver Line Phase II stations — Innovation Center, Loudoun Gateway, and Reston Town Center.

Metro officials are now assuring the public that this possibility has now been taken off the table.

“If the Board does adopt this budget, I think it’s an important message to the entire community that these cuts are not coming,” Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said at Metro’s Finance and Capital Committee meeting on April 8.

Instead, as the proposed budget states, current Metro services will maintain at their current level for at least another full year.

If adopted, the budget will also officially push back the start of service on the second phase of the Silver Line until January 2022 at the earliest.

The budget notes that “substantial completion” of the line is expected by Labor Day weekend, when the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority says it will be able to hand over the project to WMATA.

Last month, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn told Reston Now that he was relieved federal relief will save Metro from making drastic service cuts.

“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.

Delaying Silver Line Phase II from the July opening planned in WMATA’s fiscal year 2021 budget will also save Metro money. At a work session in February, operating costs for Silver Line Phase II were estimated to be about $120 million annually, or $10 million a month.

The delay will likely amount to about $46 million in savings after factoring in retention costs like security and ongoing maintenance, which are about $28.5 million annually, or $2.38 million a month — even when stations and trains are not operational.

Metro will get about $723 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds, including $193.4 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) just enacted last month. In addition to sparing Metro from making drastic cuts, the funds will provide money to individual jurisdictions for infrastructure projects in WMATA’s capital improvement program.

Fairfax County is set to receive $40.6 million from Metro’s fiscal year 2022 budget for these projects and potentially $269 million over the next six years, the most of any Virginia jurisdiction.

While most of the questions that Metro asked in their public survey when first opened at the end of February are now moot, the transit authority still received a lot of responses.

Metro received more than 22,400 comments, the most in at least a decade for a budget public survey.

However, most of those comments came from Metrorail riders, even though Metrobus currently has more riders. Of those 22,400 comments, only 17% came from Metrobus riders, 5% from low-income respondents, and 24% from minority respondents.

In response to the now-moot questions about service cuts, most were not in favor of any of the more drastic ones.

Only 13% were in favor of closing up to 22 stations, and 30% were in favor of service stopping at 9 p.m. The 30-minute wait for trains was a more accepted drastic service cut with 44% of respondents in support, 44% opposed, and 12% not sure.

Yellow and Red Line turnbacks, which means fewer trains would go to the end of the lines, were the most popular service cuts, with more than 55% of respondents favoring it.

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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Morning Notes

Fire Watch In Effect — A fire weather watch is in effect today from noon to 5 p.m. The National Weather Service notes that breezy winds, low humidity and dry conditions can cause fires to spread rapidly. [Ready Fairfax]

County 9-1-1 Service Officially Restored — The county’s 9-1-1 line is running smoothly again. Most of the day on Wednesday, call capacity was limited and callers experienced longer wait times. [Fairfax County Government]

The Top Ten Percent — Ten percent of Virginians are officially fully vaccinated and more than two million doses have been administered throughout the state, according to state data. Older adults have the most vaccine doses among age groups. [Reston Patch]

Metro Dodges Service Cuts — The passage of the American Recovery Plan will help Metro avert major service cuts and layoffs. However, the direct impact of the passage of the federal relief package is still unclear. Metro’s Board of Directors chairman notes that it is not yet known how much Metro will receive. [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Monday Morning Notes

Silver Line Extension Could Open Early Next Year — Phase two of the Silver Line is expected to open in early 2022, according to Metro’s general manager. The announcement comes after the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said it will be ready to turn the project over to Metro by Labor Day weekend. [WJLA]

County Hires Health Care Support — The county is hiring substitute and relief counselors as part of its efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and administer vaccines. [Fairfax County Government]

More Solar Panels Coming to County Schools — The Fairfax County School Board voted to install solar panels on a number of school buildings in order to limit greenhouse gas emissions and improve efficiency. The school system plans to begin the project at three schools and eventually phase out to 87 sites. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Public Hearings on Metro Budget Begin — A number of budget hearings begins this week. Metro is facing a major budget shortfall due to a dip in ridership. [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority]

Northam Reflects on One Year of COVID-19Families, friends and neighbors are mourning the more than 9,000 Virginians who died in the coronavirus pandemic over the past year, Gov. Ralph Northam said Sunday in a video. Many others have lost jobs, income, a sense of security and knowing what would happen next as lockdowns and the virus turned life upside down. [Reston Patch]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Updated at 4:30 pm — By Labor Day weekend, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority will be ready to handoff the second phase of the Silver Line project to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

Today’s announcement comes after nearly a year of delays for the project, which adds new stations from Reston to Loudoun County. Major construction issues, including the quality of concrete panels, caused significant concerns in recent months.

But now Charles Stark, senior Vice President of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, said major progress has been made.

“Recent progress on outstanding issues has put us in a position to establish a target date for substantial completion and will enable Metro to solidify its plans for final testing, training and starting passenger service.” Stark wrote in a statement.

But a spokeswoman for Metro cautioned that Merro will ultimately determine if it will accept the project.

“Today’s announcement enables Metro to begin planning and budgeting for the start of service in early 2022. As MWAA achieves substantial completion, Metro will be testing, conducting system safety certification, and recruiting and training employees to get ready for passenger service,” wrote Metro General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld

 

The project is currently being managed by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Phase two extends the line to Loudoun County and includes six new stations and a rail maintenance facility.

This comes as Metro considers closing down three of the newly-opened stations early next year due to drastic budget cuts and dips in ridership.

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Wind Advisory In Effect — The National Weather Service has issued a wind advisory that will be in effect from 2-6 p.m. today. [NWS]

Metro Seeks Comment on Proposed Budget — Metro is seeking the public’s feedback on its budget, which faces a significant shortfall due to a decrease in ridership caused by the pandemic. Ridership is down about 90 percent on Metrorail. [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority]

Reston Association Committee to Host First Public Forum — The organization’s multimodal transportation advisory committee is hosting its first public forum of this year on March 11. The committee seeks input on sidewalks, trails, pathways, crosswalks, and the overall pedestrian experience in Reston. [RA]

Death Penalty Repeal Sent to State Governor — Virginia could become the first state in the South to end the death penalty. The legislation was passed on Monday by state lawmakers and now heads to the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam. Virginia has executed more people in its history than any other state. [Reston Patch]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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