No fix yet for Silver Line concrete ties, test trains expanding

Silver Line test trains are set to start running on larger stretches of the new tracks between Wiehle-Reston East and Ashburn, Virginia, but it is still unclear exactly when those trains will begin carrying paying passengers.

In March, Metro rejected a Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority contractor’s alternative plan for fixes for concrete rail ties lifting the rails out of alignment at locations where trains switch from one track to another, an airports authority report said.

“Work continues to assess the root cause,” the report said.

Metro and the Airports Authority’s default position now is that the rail ties must be replaced, which could create additional delays.

No similar problems have been identified with the same rail ties in the rail yard at this point, but the Airports Authority has asked for additional data.

Concrete panel spray

Work has resumed to spray problem concrete panels with sealant, after a stop due to winter weather issues. The spraying is scheduled to be done by the end of June.

Baseline tests for moisture from those concrete panels are now under review.

A plan has now been approved to use a different, similar sealant on cracking panels in three buildings in the rail yard to prevent water and rust issues.

Airports Authority inspectors have been monitoring the concrete sealant work and other parts of the project like girder repairs and checks of concrete used to hold the tracks in the rail yard.

Schedule negotiations

The Airports Authority, which is overseeing construction, also rejected its contractors’ planned construction schedules.

The latest plan for the stations and tracks that will be used by riders has the tracks largely complete now, with station buildout done by January and substantial completion at the end of March 2020.

An Airports Authority report notes that is a slip in the projected substantial completion date of 50 days, but negotiations continue on how to speed things up and avoid additional delays if more major repairs are needed for issues like the concrete rail ties.

Under that timeline, the tracks and stations could be ready to open as early as May 2020, but separate delays for the rail yard project could push that back further.

Projections from the contractor building the rail yard have cut four days out of the delay compared to the previous month’s projections, with substantial completion now forecast for May 15, 2020, which could allow rail service to start sometime that summer.

In the rail yard, corrections to track installation problems have been a significant part of recent work, along with ongoing work in the yard’s buildings.

The rail yard contractor’s latest schedule hopes for certificates of occupancy for all buildings by September and completion of yard integration testing in November to show things are on the right track.

There are thousands of checklist items that must be confirmed completed along the more than 11 mile stretch of new tracks and in the six new stations before the rail line can be turned over to Metro.

The new Washington Metrorail Safety Commission now has staff attending oversight meetings for the project.

Test trains

Test trains completed polishing the third rail between Innovation Center Station and the entrance to the rail yard, which has allowed additional safe-braking testing in that area near Dulles Airport. Additional areas are now ready or nearly ready to be powered up for test trains.

As of the end of March, 185 safe braking tests had been completed in a single segment of track.

There is apparently an ongoing dispute about exactly what types of safe braking tests, and how many, will be required for the final phase of that testing on the western end of the project.

Checks of whether the rail yard is ready to start using test trains are tentatively scheduled to start in July.

Riders who use the Silver Line Phase 1 stations that opened in 2014 could see work starting in earnest in June to connect the two pieces of the project. Metro has tentatively scheduled weekend closures of Wiehle-Reston East station to allow for the work.

Once that is done, final train testing can begin in the area between Wiehle-Reston East and the new Reston Town Center station.

Crews are still looking into a handful of unexplained surge arrester activations that cut power to the tracks, including one that briefly slowed the brake testing efforts. In March, a test of two power substations found 10 of 12 surge arresters failed insulation tests and were replaced.

Parking garages

Construction on the Innovation Center garage resumed in March after additional structural supports were installed.

As of the end of March, work was 69% complete, but the garage is still expected to open when the extension opens to riders. Other garages are either ready now or will be ready when the extension opens as well.

Change for Ashburn station

Planned art at the Ashburn Station has been scuttled for now after the artist resigned.

Metro and Loudoun County have now agreed with an Airports Authority suggestion to simply add some colored sealant to the area the art was supposed to go until Metro identifies an alternative artwork that could be installed later.

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