Metro details Silver Line extension problems, eyes Jan. 2022 opening

Metro says the six-station Silver Line extension from Wiehle-Reston, past Dulles Airport, to Ashburn, Virginia, is facing some unresolved problems.

During a Thursday briefing, before the Metro Board’s Safety and Operations Committee, Laura Mason, vice president of capital delivery for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, said at least 10 Silver Line construction items remain unresolved before Metro will be satisfied with the work by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and its contractor.

Mason mentioned several conditions that still need to be remedied, including cracked third-rail cover board brackets. Mason said the cause of the cracks in 13% of the brackets has not been determined — she said the contractor believes the cracking is the result of overtightening.

Mason brought to the Board’s attention concerns about the installation location of safety signals in the train yard, near the insulated joints that ensure safe train movement.

The concern is that the current location makes it difficult for the operator to see the signal, especially when moving in reverse.

“Out of the 71 signals in the yard, 67 of them are too close by our standards,”  Mason told the Board.

Most construction issues are solvable earlier in the process — but Mason felt it was time to elevate this concern to the Board.

“We did provide that feedback to the airports authority and their contractor, and have been raising this issue since about mid-2019,” Mason said.

Mason said she still has hope the work could be done by Labor Day, which would provide enough time to do the last-minute testing and preparations to open early next year.

“The last few months we have seen increasing cooperation and improved dialog with the Airports Authority and their contractor,” Mason said.

Committee member Matt Letourneau, a Loudoun County supervisor, attempted to boil-down the concerns to a date when passenger service could begin.

“Is it safe to say that it probably wouldn’t be any sooner than January of 2022,” assuming WMATA was able to sign-off on unresolved construction issues, Letourneau asked.

“I think that is a safe assumption that we would not start service prior to January of 2022,” Mason agreed.

The six-station extension will include stations at Reston Town Center, Herndon, Innovation Center, Washington Dulles International Airport, Loudoun Gateway and Ashburn, as well as the new service and inspection yard.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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