Greater Greater Washington

If stars align, the Silver Line might open as soon as July 28. But everything's not perfect yet

WMATA still has not announced an official opening date for the Silver Line. But if crews can work out remaining construction problems quickly, the new Metro line could, potentially, maybe open for passengers as soon as Monday, July 28.


Greensboro Metro Station. Photo from Stephen Barna of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.

That's if workers complete all remaining construction as quickly as possible, and there are no hiccups during equipment testing or training, and the weather is good. So far, the last bits of construction aren't quite on target to wrap up so soon.

The union is ready for a July opening

According to WMATA's union president Jackie Jeter, Metro has instructed train operators to begin scheduling Silver Line shifts for "simulated service" starting on July 20.

Simulated service is the last step before opening for passengers. It's a training and testing phase, during which Metro will operate the Silver Line as though it were open, but without carrying passengers.

Simulated service is supposed to take a week, so if it does begin on July 20, and there are no last minute problems, everything could be done and ready to go by the 28th.

This would be a month early, and it may still not happen

According to WMATA's official schedule, final construction and testing could last through the end of August. To actually finish it all in July would be early, per that timeline.

Will they make it? During WMATA's weekly conference call with reporters yesterday, Metro deputy general manager Rob Troup not only declined to confirm the July 20 date, but also cautioned that work crews are behind schedule on some of the last tasks.

Most of the remaining issues are minor. Tasks include painting hand rails and checking the public address systems, among others. The largest remaining task may be to correct water drainage problems on the station platforms.

So the July 28 date is by no means guaranteed, and it's really not a delay if opening slips to August, or even September.

Thanks to good communication, we know what to expect

This timeline jives perfectly with what Troup said when Metro accepted control of the Silver Line on May 27. At the time, he said Metro budgeted 90 days for final testing and construction, but that they might not need the entire time.

WMATA gave the public a realistic range for how long this will take. Now that more detailed rumors are flying, we have the necessary knowledge to evaluate them. We know that July 28 is an achievable but optimistic timeline. We know that if it's not met and opening comes a month or two later, that's not a problem.

We know that dotting every "i" and crossing every "t" on a complex infrastructure project like the Silver Line is impossible to completely predict. But we know the Silver Line is getting really, really close.

So I'm tempering my expectations, but I'm still excited.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

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Dan Malouff is a professional transportation planner for Arlington County, but his blog posts represent only his own personal views. He has a degree in Urban Planning from the University of Colorado, and lives car-free in Washington. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post

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Bechtel got away with murder on this, and the worst the contract had in store for them was penalties on the order of 25k per day... on a nearly $3 billion project. Large infrastructure projects should have clear credits for delivery in advance of schedule/cost savings share and penalties to any future project bids that involve federal loans or money for those that delay more than 3 months.

You let the massive contractors know they will miss out on future bids for the next 5 years because they aren't putting enough effort behind a project, or because they are haggling over punch list items, and suddenly things get done.

by Navid Roshan on Jun 10, 2014 10:14 am • linkreport

So does simulated service mean we'll see empty trains running all the way to Largo in the week leading up to opening? That'll be fun.

by drumz on Jun 10, 2014 10:20 am • linkreport

thank god we are not using contractors to design/build an entire streetcar system....

by charlie on Jun 10, 2014 10:22 am • linkreport

So does simulated service mean we'll see empty trains running all the way to Largo in the week leading up to opening? That'll be fun.

No. More like the current RushPlus trains will go "no passengers" when they reach East Falls Church and then will turn off onto the Silver Line. In the other direction, they will run down the Silver Line to EFC and then go into regular service with passengers to Largo.

There is a description in this article from Troup:
http://www.wtop.com/41/3630253/Metro-riders-Get-ready-for-changes-ahead-of-Silver-Line
"One week prior to opening, we will have what we call 'simulated revenue service.' We will actually adjust all the schedules on the other lines accordingly for the Silver Line, and what we will do then is we will run regular normal Silver Line service that will tie in at East Falls Church. The trains will then run in revenue service,"

by MLD on Jun 10, 2014 10:32 am • linkreport

@drumz IIUC during simulated service you'll be able to ride the trains, but everyone will be offloaded at East Falls Church before the train does the new portion of the SV Line route.

All other lines will see planned SV opening service reductions during simulated service: BL will have 12 min headways and OR will also have increased headways.

by DC Transit Nerd on Jun 10, 2014 10:32 am • linkreport

That works for me then. That'll be fun to officially ride a silver line train even if the Tyson's stations aren't actually taking passengers yet.

by drumz on Jun 10, 2014 10:47 am • linkreport

I'm a little confused as to how those trains will run on time at rush hour after having to make sure everyone is offloaded at EFC, which doesn't have a third track or anything.

by Gray on Jun 10, 2014 11:05 am • linkreport

^ Agree with Gray. Have fun at EFC that week, orange line riders!

by Nick on Jun 10, 2014 11:16 am • linkreport

@Navid

Best guess, based on second-hand info: both sides wanted to avoid expensive litigation, and MWAA did not want to get sucked into a black eye-inducing lawsuit in which Bechtel would've argued that MWAA's atrocious project management practices were responsible for the overruns. Public discovery of thousands of documents shining a light on MWAA's operations is something they desperately want to avoid.

by Dizzy on Jun 10, 2014 11:21 am • linkreport

After this many delays, I'm tempering my expectations. Figure it will be late August because of DTP falling behind the revised^N-gen schedule.

During the simulated service week, WMATA should have multiple personnel on the East Falls Church platform to make sure everyone gets off the SL train so there is no long delay in clearing the train.

by AlanF on Jun 10, 2014 12:05 pm • linkreport

@Dizzy, not talking about the management side, talking contract. The management debacle that was the complete waste of 3 months as both sides postured instead of built was created out of a lax contract penalty for such actions.

If $multi-billion contractors want $multi-billion contracts, they should be held with their feet to the fire in the CONTRACT not in the execution of that contract. The vagueness, and the minimal penalty was why they got away with it.

by Navid Roshan on Jun 10, 2014 12:20 pm • linkreport

Which year?

by Bill on Jun 10, 2014 1:37 pm • linkreport

@drumz

During simulated service trains will displaying an East Falls Church destination sign (destination code 70). After discharging passenger at East Falls Church trains will proceed the Wiehle-Reston East. On opening day the destination code will be changed to 64 which will display Wiehle - Reston East in the sign boxes.

by Sand Box John on Jun 11, 2014 12:12 am • linkreport

seems like it would make sense to take advantage of the extra platform space at west falls church and offload there.

by Mike on Jun 11, 2014 9:32 am • linkreport

@Mike - the Silver Line trains do not go to W. Falls Church, so they cannot offload there.

by JDC on Jun 11, 2014 10:34 am • linkreport

duh. next time, have morning beverage before confusing east and west. :)

by Mike on Jun 11, 2014 1:05 pm • linkreport

very funny Bill. hehee

by asffa on Jun 11, 2014 2:07 pm • linkreport

This is not what the FCDOT and/or WMATA personnel at the West Falls Church Metro station and other area local events handing out Silver Line information packets really want you to know.

1. The Tysons rail detour - If your rail commute takes you through Tysons Corner, but it is not your destination, plan on at least 12 extra minutes a day both ways. Travel time between Spring Hill (Route 7) and McLean (Route 123) stations is 6 minutes per Metro's website http://silverlinemetro.com/sv-service/ . This does not include 30 seconds dwell time at each of these two ends of Tysons stations, plus train travel time to and from the toll road on Routes 7 and 123, another minute or two. You are looking at 8 to 9 minutes to snake through Tysons on the train. If you stay on the toll road by car, the travel time today is 2 minutes 30 seconds between Routes 7 and 123 (confirmed multiple times by stopwatch recordings on my commuter bus recently). Multiplied by 2 for a two way commute, 6 minutes extra x 2 is 12 minutes wasted. Though suggested to FCDOT, there will be no Fairfax Connector or Metrobuses on the toll road east of Wiehle to/from Falls church with the opening of the Silver Line. Of course, the train travel times are if the trains are on schedule, not for sick passengers, train breakdowns (at least for a while, no/minimal number of new 7000 series cars), security situations, etc.. The Orange Line in the median of I66 is a straight shot downtown without detours owing some to its success, whereas the Silver Line with its 'detour' through Tysons and its 'detour' through Dulles Airport for Loudoun commuters in Phase 2, not so much so.

2. Versus West Falls Church north side bus bays where have a very convenient and nonstop access to the toll road dedicated for buses, at Reston Wiehle, you will be stuck at a traffic light for up to an additional 2 or 3 minutes to get off of and onto Wiehle to get into OR out of the station in the morning OR evening. This additional time does not include congested traffic, hundreds of cars mixed with buses, around Wiehle by those forced to ride the train, not by choice. Should note timed multiple times travel time between WFC and Wiehle by express bus is only 11 minutes, the rail is not going to be able to compete with that. The rail line to Tysons Corner, am not disagreeing makes sense, but west of that, express buses to Reston, Dulles Airport, and points west work more efficiently timewise today.

3. The overhead walkways at the new Silver Line at each of the Tysons and Reston are steel mesh, not glass, supposedly to allow increased air flow. This will not be good on that windy and cold fall or winter day, during the time of year you are already prone to illnesses. And the new Silver Line station bus shelters, similar to at Vienna Metro today, have no back support, and have openings around the glass side perimeters to allow wind in. For a small subset of commuters catching buses at the south Wiehle bus bays outdoors, these are parallel and adjacent to the eastbound toll road ramp to Wiehle Avenue with those there receiving a strong breeze from the fast moving traffic, again not what looking forward to in typical winter weather.

4. On the topic of possible health concerns, if you are mentally afraid of heights, the Tysons overhead rail line dozens of feet in the air is not for you. The bus workaround for this, including for all if the Silver Line is shut down west of Falls Church for an emergency situation (knowing Metro's history, its not a question of if, but when), is multiple buses which from Reston Wiehle to Falls Church a Connector bus from Reston Wiehle to Reston Town Center transferring to Connector 574 to Spring Hill in Tysons Corner (this route runs only every 30-40 minutes), then transferring to Connector 423 to Tysons Corner Metro, and last transferring to a choice of more than one bus at Tysons Corner Metro to the Orange line (not sure how many hours this would take). In such a situation, foreseeing this to be a huge bonanza for area taxi drivers.

5. For this inconvenience, you will be paying more in rail fare, with no more discount than currently on the $1.75 commuter bus fare, and also if you park for free today at one of Reston park and ride lots, another $4.85 for parking at Wiehle (effective with the June 30 fare increase). To a lesser extent like Obamacare, another monthlypersonal/family budget buster, but that's a topic for another forum.

6. For those commuting from due west or southwest of West Falls Church Metro trying to go toward Tysons, Reston, or Herndon, or other places northwest, enjoy the scenic side/backtracking trip on the rail to and from East Falls Church Metro with extra costs and 12 extra minutes total both ways daily, or on one of the few bus routes along traffic congested Gallows Road or Maple Avenue (Route 123) in Vienna or Leesburg Pike (Route 7), all of these routes running from various Fairfax County Orange Line stations to the Tysons Corner Metro station, brought to you courtesy of FCDOT and WMATA. Many of the West Falls Church bus bays, especially on the north side, will be void of service. Wondering what will be become of the north side WFC bus buys, which will be nearly a 'ghost town' with many bus services rerouted to Reston or Tysons with the Silver Line opening, also which less than five years ago, FCDOT spent a considerable sum putting a weather canopy structure over these bus bays?

7. The Silver Line will be a bum deal for many Fairfax County commuters - on Metrorail, Orange Line, about 1/3 less rush hour trains, 16 to 17 per hour today vs. 11 per hour with the Silver Line; Blue Line, rush hour trains only every 12 minutes; Silver Line, those going to Dulles Airport and others benefiting from a nonstop trip to points along the Dulles Toll Road, excepting Tysons, with express buses as today which are far cheaper for riders. Many thousands of current bus riders will be affected, not in a good way, particularly those in Reston and Herndon (details above). Even if you drive, you are paying ever increasing tolls along the Dulles Toll Road and Loudoun Greenway, for a Silver Line that you may not use. For an increased transit commute time and 1/3 increase in cost, I am very glad this has been delayed several months from December 2013.

I suggested last year to the Fairfax County Department of Transportation keeping one bus line say every 20 minutes during rush hours, along the Dulles Toll Road east of Wiehle to WFC (with now added suggestion including one stop at Tysons), if not for rail emergencies, that it may benefit some, but I was ignored, likely due to cost. Maybe they will find the money when they find a route or two of new Silver Line Fairfax Connector service that is not as productive as they expected.

Though the Silver Line will benefit some landowners and businesses along the Silver Line and commuters between Arlington or DC along the current Orange line and Tysons, there are a quite a number of pitfalls with the new rail line. If you are affected not in a good way, please take this into consideration including possible use of other transportation options when the Silver Line opens.

by commute201 on Jun 22, 2014 12:41 pm • linkreport

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