First on WTOP: What 24/7 shutdown will mean for Orange, Silver Line riders in summer 2020

Vienna and Dunn Loring Metro stations could be closed for more than three months next summer. Orange Line trains could run on a single-track at West Falls Church, and Orange and Silver Line trains could pass through East Falls Church without stopping.

The closures would run as long as May 23 (Memorial Day weekend) through about Aug. 28 (before Labor Day weekend) so that Metro can repair platforms at its stations, according to preliminary contracting documents.

Other draft documents suggest Metro believes the shortest time period for some of the most significant platform repair and station-upgrade work would be between May 30 and Aug. 3.

Metro had promised details on next summer’s planned shutdowns on the Orange Line in Virginia and the north end of the Green/Yellow Line in Maryland this fall, but the bids from contractors are not due until next month for the Orange Line work.

Metro expects to select a contractor for that Orange Line work — and the contractor’s associated schedule — by the end of December, which would mean details on the specific shutdown schedule might not be available until January.

The contracting documents request proposals that could get even more work done than Metro expects or that could shorten the total length of the shutdown.

A winning bidder is due to be selected based on proposed schedule and work plans, experience, staffing, subcontractors, disadvantaged business plans and safety record.

In earlier planning stages, Metro tentatively had been looking at Orange Line closures at Vienna and Dunn Loring from July 5 through Sept. 7, but it appears that is no longer the most likely schedule.

The specific dates for separate work on West Hyattsville, Prince George’s Plaza, College Park and Greenbelt next year are less clear.

Metro has not issued similar contracting documents for that work, but the four Green and Yellow Line stations remain on Metro’s general list for major platform repairs in 2020.

Orange and Silver Line service during summer 2020 shutdown

Whatever the precise dates, Vienna and Dunn Loring stations are slated to be completely closed during 24/7 work next summer.

Metro is currently planning to keep one track open at West Falls Church which would allow a limited number of trains to keep running to and from the station and reduce or eliminate the need for costly shuttle buses there.

At East Falls Church, only one track would be open but trains would not stop at the station during the work zone, so passengers can not board trains there. Keeping trains moving would limit the impact of single-tracking on both Orange and Silver Line trains and allow Metro to largely transfer control of the station to the construction contractor.

Reducing the closure’s impact on Silver Line riders is important both because the current Silver Line stations offer an alternative during the work and because there remains a chance that the Silver Line extension to Dulles Airport and Loudoun County could be ready to open before the 24/7 work is done.

It would also ease pressure on the Ballston station, which already serves around 10,000 people each day.

Riders at West Falls Church and passing through East Falls Church would have a different view of the work zones than in the past. Like visitors might see at an airport, Metro plans to put up artwork and images similar to 7000 Series trains or other promotional positive designs on 8-foot-tall wooden barricades that will block the view of work zones.

If work continues at West Falls Church after Vienna, Dunn Loring and East Falls Church fully reopen, the closure would only impact one of the three tracks at West Falls Church.

Bid documents allow the potential contractors to suggest the period of track work at West Falls Church, which can run from May 23 to a point determined by the contractor. At least one track would remain open in the station most of the time.

There could still be total weekend shutdowns at East Falls Church and West Falls Church as needed during the lengthy work zone though, including when work switches from one track to another.

Cost, incentives for faster finish

The Orange Line work is projected to cost $160 million to $240 million

The costs for the contract do not include the granite slabs that go on Metro platform edges or the new platform tiles, but they do include $3.25 million in permit fees and $4 million in insurance costs.

If the work is done well before 6 a.m. Aug. 28, Metro could pay more than $1 million in incentives.

Work to be done

While the primary drivers of the shutdowns are problems with crumbling platform edges, other fixes for the stations include repairs to cracked concrete that is creating water issues, upgrades for lighting, digital signs, intercoms, security cameras and public address speakers, and new platform tiles.

The contractor is also required to clear out old pay phone booths, exit fare machines and “bird or vermin-related debris.” Changes are also intended to keep birds, mice and rats from setting up shop above ceiling panels, on ledges or at other locations.

Other work includes cleaning, painting, bathroom overhauls, ceiling repairs, lighting replacement, new signage, station roof and skylight replacements, waterproofing, new blast-resistant trash cans, digital maps, fire safety systems, some escalator and elevator casing upgrades, and back-end systems.

Outside the stations, the contractor would also work on one of two tracks leading from the West Falls Church station to the nearby rail yard.

Setting up cranes, storing materials and staging other equipment means parts of Metro parking areas and kiss-and-rides will be closed during construction, and some lane closures are possible on adjacent roads as well.

At East Falls Church, one lane of southbound Sycamore Street could be closed underneath Interstate 66, and there could be limited closures of the westbound lanes of I-66 in the middle of the day or overnight as allowed by the Virginia Department of Transportation.

One lane of Washington Boulevard over I-66 could also be closed outside of rush hour.

The short-term parking spaces in the middle of the kiss-and-ride lot at East Falls Church would be closed off for the contractor, but cars would still be permitted in and out.

At West Falls Church, the surface parking lot would be closed for the contractor’s use, and the middle of the kiss-and-ride area would also be blocked off. The bus loop on the north side of West Falls Church would be closed, but the loop on the south side would remain open.

At Dunn Loring, the construction staging area would be in the middle of Interstate 66 with limited other impacts.

At Vienna, part of the surface parking lot next to the kiss-and-ride would be closed for construction setup.

Bus riders and others will still be allowed to walk across the pedestrian bridges between the north and south sides of the Vienna Metro Station even while the station itself is closed for construction. That will allow riders to connect between different buses.

Shutdown comes amid I-66 toll lane work

Construction work on Metro comes as work continues to expand on Interstate 66 toll lanes.

Outside the Capital Beltway, a private group is building two toll lanes in each direction.

Inside the Beltway, VDOT is working on a widening project promised as part of rush-hour tolls for solo drivers.

Metro’s contracting documents require bidders to cooperate with the I-66 construction projects.

At Vienna, the construction work has closed Vaden Drive over Interstate 66 and the tail end of the Orange Line. That bridge will be rebuilt next year along with new ramps.

At Dunn Loring, the toll lane project is forcing the shift of a Metro power station. The road work also includes demolition and bridge construction for Gallows Road.

Between Vienna and Dunn Loring, the Cedar Lane Bridge is being torn down and rebuilt, and new power connections are scheduled to be run in duct banks across I-66.

The bridge work is projected to require Metro single-tracking or shutdowns on a few weekends over the next six months, with some other work planned during the Metro closure next summer.

More lengthy 24/7 shutdowns in 2021

Similar closures are planned for 2021 elsewhere in the system.

The 2021 summer shutdowns or single-tracking are planned at Cheverly, Landover and New Carrollton on the Maryland end of the Orange Line and at Addison Road, Arlington Cemetery and Reagan National Airport on the Blue Line. (Addison Road is also served by Silver Line trains, and Reagan National is also served by Yellow Line trains.)

Work at Reagan National could include single-tracking or taking only one of three tracks out at a time. Work at Arlington Cemetery would likely require a complete closure of the Blue Line between Pentagon and Rosslyn due to the layout of the station. Addison Road could be done with single-tracking because the platform is between the two tracks.

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