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WTOP exclusive: Silver Line on track to open by July 4

Friday - 4/4/2014, 10:10pm  ET

Max Smith and Ari Ashe, wtop.com

WASHINGTON -- The Silver Line could be up and running by July 4 after significant progress throughout the last few weeks, sources familiar with the project tell WTOP.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority continues to run tests on the tracks and the contractor building the Silver Line could get approval to turn the project over to Metro within the next two weeks.

Multiple sources tell WTOP that it's more likely that the Silver Line will be completed and certified before the end of the month than it being delayed into May. Once MWAA certifies the project as complete, it would turn over the project to Metro. Project Director Pat Nowakowski has told WTOP the time between certification and turnover to Metro would be quick.

Metro has said it could be up to 90 days after that before trains open for passengers, but Metro board members have told WTOP that Metro hopes to be able to open the line more quickly.

A source tells WTOP that Metro hopes to take only 60 days after getting control of the line, since they have been able to run extra tests during the project's long delay.

Metro General Manager Richard Sarles has told reporters that it could probably shed some time off the 90 day window, but has not specified how many days. Even if Metro takes the full 90 days, the Silver Line could open to passengers before the end of July.

The Silver Line was scheduled to open last year but was delayed several times during construction.

In February, the contractor building the line, Dulles Transit Partners, told MWAA that it had reached "substantial completion".

The Airports Authority found several problems with the construction, including speakers that posed a fire hazard and problems with communications cables. Other problems were found with the automatic train control system, escalators, water leaks, and permits.

Sources tell WTOP that Dulles Transit Partners, including the main contractor Bechtel Corporation, have worked quickly to resolve several of the issues identified. MWAA will run new tests on the tracks over the next couple weeks to check the progress on that work.

Under the contract, MWAA could fine DTP up to $25,000 per day if the project isn't complete by April 9, although that seems unlikely based on these developments. The MWAA Board of Directors will meet on April 16 to discuss the latest on the Silver Line.

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