Greater Greater Washington

Transit


The Silver Line's opening day, in 41 photos

Metro's new Silver Line is officially open and carrying passengers. Enjoy this photo tour of the new line and opening day festivities.


All photos by Dan Malouff, Matt Johnson, and Malcolm Kenton.

Metro's star-studded ribbon-cutting ceremony featured US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, and seemingly every other dignitary in Northern Virginia.


Left: Anthony Foxx, Terry McAuliffe, and Sharon Bulova. Right: The ribbon-cutting.

Once the gates at Wiehle station opened, riders rushed in to catch the first train. Cheers erupted as the "doors closing" chime sounded for the first time, and the train sped forward.

The first train took off from Wiehle-Reston East station shortly after noon, and moved east through Tysons on its way to Largo. GGW's troop of partiers exited at East Falls Church to double back and tour each of the five new Silver Line stations individually.

McLean station

The ride between East Falls Church and McLean station offers a champion view of the Tysons skyline, and McLean station itself.

Metro's tracks swoop gracefully into McLean station.

The station is elevated over Capital One Drive, and features an angular starburst-shaped platform canopy. The mezzanine is one level below the tracks. The sidewalk is one level below that.

Construction transforms the landscape outside the station, except a lone ball field.

Looking west, the growing skyline around the Tysons Corner station looms.

Tysons Corner station

Tysons Corner station is situated between Tysons' two gargantuan shopping malls and its tallest buildings (so far). The platform canopy is a futuristic gambrel-like shape.

Tysons Corner station uses the gambrel roof instead of the starburst because the mezzanine is above the tracks, rather than below. That same pattern repeats at other stations along the line. Mezzanine below tracks gets a starburst, while mezzanine above gets a gambrel.

The mezzanine commands an impressive east-facing view.

On the north side, Tysons Boulevard runs perpendicularly under the station. It's so similar to how Colesville Road runs under Silver Spring that it's easy to imagine Tysons Corner one day being just as urban.

On the south side, Chain Bridge Road is a highway that most people will use a bridge to cross.

At sidewalk level below the station, it's reminiscent of Silver Spring.

The south facade includes a prominent public art piece.

Just past Tysons Corner station the Silver Line enters a brief subway tunnel, to pass under the crest of a hill.


Subway portal.

Greensboro station

The next station west is Greensboro, which also uses the gambrel-like roof.

High walls block out noise from car traffic on Leesburg Pike, to either side of the station.

Like all new Silver Line stations, Greensboro sports updated WMATA branding: More colorful signage and silver fixtures, rather than Metro's original 1970s-era brown.

Looking west, there's a great view of Leesburg Pike and the next station, Spring Hill.

Spring Hill station

Spring Hill uses the starburst roof, like McLean.

Spring Hill is the final station in Tysons. From there, it's a five-mile ride through the Fairfax County suburbs to Wiehle-Reston East.

Wiehle-Reston East station

The terminal station feels like a nicer-looking twin of Vienna, set in the median of the Dulles Access Road instead of I-66.

The gambrel-style roof looks great here.

One key difference from Vienna is that Wiehle's commodious mezzanine includes publicly-accessible restrooms. All five new Silver Line stations have them.

South of the station, a pedestrian bridge crosses the Dulles Toll Road and lands in an unassuming bus depot, with office building parking lots beyond.

North of the station, impressive transit-oriented development is already sprouting.

On the north side, the station entrance is set in a plaza atop the roof of a parking garage. The ground floor of the garage is Wiehle's main bus depot, taxi stand, and bike parking room. To access the garage, go through the glass house.

Beyond Wiehle, the Silver Line will eventually extend to Dulles Airport and Loudoun County, but for now it's just a bit of train parking and construction staging. For a tour of the six stations that will make up Silver Line Phase II, check back in 2018.

Dan Malouff is a professional transportation planner for the Arlington County Department of Transportation. He has a degree in Urban Planning from the University of Colorado, and lives a car-free lifestyle in Northwest Washington. His posts are his own opinions and do not represent the views of his employer in any way. He runs the blog BeyondDC and also contributes to the Washington Post Local Opinions blog. 

Comments

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So is the elevated path to Tyson's Corner Center Mall currently locked closed? Awesome.

by NikolasM on Jul 28, 2014 11:01 am • linkreport

The elevated walkway can't be opened yet because the building to which it is attached isn't finished yet. It's still a construction zone.

by KirbyK on Jul 28, 2014 11:05 am • linkreport

How many billions and they still couldnt build a roof over the entire platform?

by JJJ on Jul 28, 2014 11:34 am • linkreport

Amazing Dan, you deserve some kind of award for this!

by Jay Roberts on Jul 28, 2014 11:35 am • linkreport

@Jay Roberts:
Can Malcolm and I get an award, too?

by Matt' Johnson on Jul 28, 2014 11:41 am • linkreport

Are the restrooms locked?

by massysett on Jul 28, 2014 11:43 am • linkreport

Definitely please also thank Matt Johnson and Malcolm Kenton, for contributing lots of the pictures and for doing even more touring and train riding than I did.

by BeyondDC on Jul 28, 2014 11:45 am • linkreport

massysett, No, the restrooms are not locked (unless someone's in them).

by BeyondDC on Jul 28, 2014 11:46 am • linkreport

Likely the wrong post for this question, but for the phase 2 stations, why isn't WMATA opening up the phase 2 stops one at a time moving outbound from Wiehl?

by phase2 on Jul 28, 2014 11:55 am • linkreport

why isn't WMATA opening up the phase 2 stops one at a time moving outbound from Wiehl?

Because they're not building them one at a time, they're building them all at once.

by Alex B. on Jul 28, 2014 12:01 pm • linkreport

I believe it would be due to the need for the ability to handle the turnaround of the trains. End-of-line stations (and select others) have the space to move a train out of service as needed as well as move beyond and switch to the other tracks. I doubt they want to build such functionality at every single new station as they build phase 2.

This same issue determined that the Silver Line needed to go all the way to Largo. Originally, they planned to end it earlier (perhaps Stadium-Armory? Not sure) but they determined it wasn't feasible to do the turn-arounds there due to lack of space. I remember that in part it was a safety issue.

by KirbyK on Jul 28, 2014 12:02 pm • linkreport

@Phase2

I asked the same question before. The end of each phase of the Silver line needs infrastructure for train storage and train turn-around and these mid-line stations don't have that capability.

Additionally, as we saw with Phase I, there is significant testing required before the new segment can open. Opening new stations incrementally would likely significantly increase the time for the entire Phase II to open.

by 202_Cyclist on Jul 28, 2014 12:02 pm • linkreport

I can't be the only one who chortled at "2018" right? In any event, I look forward to WhichMATA being much harder now!

by Hadur on Jul 28, 2014 12:11 pm • linkreport

It's not just the end-of-the-line infrastructure that is needed that prevents them from opening stations one by one. It's the nature of how construction works. You have different contractors doing different aspects of the line and stations and they work on all the stations at once.

If you were building a house, would you completely finish everything about the bedroom before moving on to the living room? It's the same here. You're not going to contract with the escalator installer to do one station and then come back a year later to do the next station. There are cost savings involved in doing it all at once.

by MLD on Jul 28, 2014 12:24 pm • linkreport

Really horrible that we're "celebrating" a five-station extension to the Orange Line with such fanfare. How many stations would the Europeans or Asians have built with the same amount of time and money? 15? 25? 30? An entirely new system. Would they have screwed up the the pedestrian connections as badly as Fairfax County and WMATA?

That we feel entitled to celebrate such a tiny achievement -- elevated line with headways of 6-20 minutes -- is insane.

by James on Jul 28, 2014 12:36 pm • linkreport

In any event, I look forward to WhichMATA being much harder now!

Anyone want to lay odds on this week's being "guess which new Silver Line station is which?"

by Zeus on Jul 28, 2014 12:36 pm • linkreport

That the line is elevated will not impair its useability as transit line - and in fact the views from the line are a positive about it. Amd headways will improve when we get the new tunnel to DC, and as Tysons grows.

As for pedestrian connections, I do not know what people elsewhere would have done to retrofit walkability into a place like Tysons. Do they have many such places? WMATA did not make Tysons what it is, nor did the current leadership of Fairfax County. It was a result of decisions made from the mid-1960s to the mid-1990s. The attempt to transform such a place is a brave one, and well worth celebrating a big step forward like this.

Complaining that the US is not Europe gets kind of boring after a while.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Jul 28, 2014 12:44 pm • linkreport

No, the Tyson's retrofit is unprecedented.

The pedestrian improvements are coming. It's just that you have to start somewhere. Otherwise you're forever waiting for the chicken or the egg.

by drumz on Jul 28, 2014 12:48 pm • linkreport

Thanks for the responses. I haven't seen Phase 1 in person. However, through pictures, I haven't seen - and wouldn't expect to see - any of the referenced infrastructure at Wiehl (or at Vienna, for that matter). If no pocket track, all you need is some extra line past the station and a cross-over.

I appreciate the need to have the various tradesmen work in harmony. However, I have seen a rolling opening of roads, homes within a development, etc. Once the escalator installers are done with station A, they move on to station B. If station B is behind schedule, the responsible contractor is fined. In terms of total man-hours, would it be that different?

by phase2 on Jul 28, 2014 12:59 pm • linkreport

It's GREAT to have most of the bus stops at Wiehle Avenue in the garage and protected from the elements. You'll be able to wait for your Washington Flyer bus or Fairfax Connector to Dulles in a waiting area where you - and your luggage - won't get rained on or snowed on.

My question, though, is why didn't they cover the walkway that goes from the Metro exit to the escalator that takes you to the bus waiting area in the garage? After all, we do have torrential thunderstorms here every summer, and snow and that delightful wintry mix every winter. In nice weather, it's a pleasant walk. But in rain or snow, while shlepping luggage, probably not so.

by Mike S. on Jul 28, 2014 1:00 pm • linkreport

Conductors are absolutely butchering the pronunciation of "Wiehle"

by Anonymous on Jul 28, 2014 1:17 pm • linkreport

When we look back and see how things were built in the "old days" of America, it is frastrating to witness the expensive and slow progress of today.

There are some negative reasons for the way things are, such as corruption, incompetence, lack of pride, NIMBYism, etc.

On the other hand, there are some (possible) positive reasons, too. These are: consideration for environmental impact, costlier and advanced technologies, consideration to citizens in the "impact zone."

Other reasons: There are more people physically in the way, nowadays. There are more buildings in the way, too. People are better informed on both sides of issues, making it much more difficult to fly under the radar.

As an example, we are not able to raze entire neighborhoods to build Olympics venues, like they can do in China, without jumping through a LOT of hoops. The part of me that loves big infrastructure projects wishes we could stomp through (for the greater good), but the rest of me knows that's just not how we do things around here.

So, it's a messy process for us. I don't hesitate to celebrate the "little" victories.

by The Truth™ on Jul 28, 2014 1:23 pm • linkreport

@Anonymous: Mine said "wiley." What have others heard?

by Gray on Jul 28, 2014 1:23 pm • linkreport

@NikolasM: The elevated walkway over Chain Bridge is done, but right now people have to take the escalator down on the other side and enter Tysons Corner Center through Lord & Taylor--after crossing a few roads. Right now they have security guards stationed to direct traffic, which seems pretty necessary but is not much of a long-term solution.

The other walkway looks like it could be done, or close to it, but yeah...the other end of it is still a construction zone.

by Gray on Jul 28, 2014 1:27 pm • linkreport

America isn't Europe, but Europe does sustainable urban design really, really well.

It's not complaining that "America isn't Europe," it's wondering why America can't aspire to European levels of competence and efficiency in the planning, design and construction of the human habitat.

The Silver Line extension -- and the entire Silver Line, more generally -- is just another example of "it's the thought that counts." Building this line without, for example, another Rosslyn tunnel -- so the Blue Line riders suffer as a result of the "new" line -- is kind of like celebrating the arrival of the "high-speed Acela," which was forced to run on old tracks and wasn't really high-speed t all.

by James on Jul 28, 2014 1:32 pm • linkreport

Many of the complaints (such as elevated vs tunnel) get to cost not competence.

By planning and design, do you mean the way Tysons is laid out, or the design of the Silver Line?

As for building this before addressing the core, that has been discussed already. FFX county wanted to keep up growth (given its school funding issues, it needs to.) To do that it needs growth at Tysons, and to make that possible it needed to transform Tysons, and to do that it needed the SL. It was not going to wait for interjurisdictional questions related to a seperate blue line were done, just to prevent a relatively small number of blue riders from being moderately inconvenienced.

Now, are there problems with how we finance public education in the USA? Sure. But that to me really does fall into the " if only the US were Europe" category - its not really about transportation or planning professionals design things.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Jul 28, 2014 1:42 pm • linkreport

It's not complaining that "America isn't Europe," it's wondering why America can't aspire to European levels of competence and efficiency in the planning, design and construction of the human habitat.

Of course, we should always wonder why we can't do better. But that's no reason to bag on the improvements we have made. I see lots of people remarking about what an improvement it is for Tysons Corner; I don't see anyone suggesting that this is now the paragon of transit planning and urban design.

If your goal is to get the US to the same level as Europe in terms of public transit and urban design, I can just about guarantee you that the only plausible path in that direction is an incremental one. And that means celebrating achievements like the Silver line, not denigrating them.

If you let the desire for something perfect be the enemy of making progress via something good, you're never going to live to see that 'perfect' future. Progress happens incrementally; good changes build support for additional good changes.

by Alex B. on Jul 28, 2014 1:52 pm • linkreport

+1 Alex B

by JDC on Jul 28, 2014 1:55 pm • linkreport

"Wiehle's commodious mezzanine includes publicly-accessible restrooms."

I like the pun, whether intentional or not.

by Rich on Jul 28, 2014 1:55 pm • linkreport

well, it's reasonable to point out defects regardless of "the perfect being the enemy of the good (enough)".

that being said, I don't think, with hindsight based on witnessing the first phase extension, that the line not being tunnelized is the end of the world. I argued otherwise back in the day.

It's going to take some time for the urban design to change regardless, because the automobility focus is so strong already, despite the planning changes.

One big problem is the cost. It will be damn expensive to take Metrorail from those stations every day into the core _especially if you have to drive to the station and park_.

And taking the bus to the stations will take some time as well.

And biking to the stations, which normally would be a cheaper and faster alternative, is somewhat gnarly, given the nature of the arterials and the mobility network out there.

That being said, like in DC and Arlington, over time there will be some serious impact in repatterning out there. Reston will become an edge city of its own.

... I did forget to check out the restrooms. And yes, nice photos.

2. Yes, James is right of course, about the crossing. It's very frustrating to read things by people like Robt. McCartney about this now, when I was pointing out the ramifications of this problem eight years ago.

3. spent a goodly number of hours at Mosaic District, first time I'd been there. For a variety of reasons it works.

I wonder if we could take DC elected officials and stakeholders on a bus tour there if they would begin to understand the velocity of change in the region and that DC needs to up its game on its own about adding capacity in the core and thinking about the impact of the height limit.

... I favor increasing building height for a variety of reasons, but mostly because it would enable funding for heavy rail transit expansion (and maybe some road tunneling here and there) in DC proper.

by Richard Layman on Jul 28, 2014 2:49 pm • linkreport

"One big problem is the cost. It will be damn expensive to take Metrorail from those stations every day into the core _especially if you have to drive to the station and park_.

And taking the bus to the stations will take some time as well."

Not really different than Vienna, Dunn Loring, and WFC, correct?

Also, while the Silver Line does take people into the core, that's not really the point of the SL, right? The SL is more about Tysons than it is about the core. Actually, it's about a 2nd core.

In just 4 square miles, it already packs in over 100k employees and the hope is for it to be 200k in 30 or so years. And, of course, they're looking to add 80k more residents.

by jh on Jul 28, 2014 3:32 pm • linkreport

jh -- yes, the Silver Line is not about getting to the core as much as it is repositioning Fairfax and Loudoun Counties for 21st century relevance when trends favor transit connectivity in highly valued areas.

I wrote about that in 2011 here: http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2011/03/short-term-vs-long-term-thinking.html

by Richard Layman on Jul 28, 2014 4:28 pm • linkreport

I wish that I could feel confident Tysons will be ready for a new reality of urbanism in the 21st Century. Unfortunately, that will require taking away space from cars and dramatically remaking the area -- making Tysons better for pedestrians, cyclists and transit users will necessarily mean making it worse for motorists. There is no "fuzzy space" in the middle.

by James on Jul 28, 2014 4:31 pm • linkreport

@Gray - I too keep hearing "Wiley." I'm sure they'll start getting it at some point ... right?

by Anonymous on Jul 28, 2014 4:45 pm • linkreport

Or you'll give into the new pronounciation, just like with Clarendon.

by gimbels lover on Jul 28, 2014 5:10 pm • linkreport

how is Clarendon supposed to be pronounced?

by Richard Layman on Jul 28, 2014 5:28 pm • linkreport

You know I'm surprised that a lot of you are complaining about petty, trifling things like the walkway to the mall being locked and the station canopies not extending down the whole platform. Like you I have waited 5 years for this to happen and eagerly read every update along the way. I'm surprised that some of you manage to complain after a state of the art metro line opens instead of just being grateful about it.

by getreal on Jul 28, 2014 5:44 pm • linkreport

Can you please explain to me how this is a "state-of-the-art metro line"?

Here is state-of-the-art (Copenhagen, but also in tiny Italian cities like Brescia): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KraMiL_5jk8

The problem with America that is enough people DON'T complain about bad things like our transit, roads and health care.

If we whined and complained as often as the Italians, the Brits, and the French, maybe we'd have transit and cities as nice as they do.

by James on Jul 28, 2014 5:57 pm • linkreport

There are several things that could have be done to make the stations better such-as the following

Covering entire platforms or at-least covering the area from the escalators to benches why should someone have to go out from under the coverings just to take a seat.

Distance between benches and escalators and elevators; is no one thinking of the elderly and disabled.

Busbays being on both sides of exits; what happens when the station is closed but buses are still running how would someone transfer between buses. The roads are too damn dangerous to cross at these intersections.

Tysons Corner Center why the hell isnt the apartment buildings construction done what would have happened if the station did opened in December ?

Chain bridge and Galleria Drive will be dangerous as hell the crossing should have been at ground level like White Flint so all not just train riders could cross safely.

Another thing how is Whiele supposed to be pronounced. It is a German word and therefore should be pronounced with a Vee and not Wheel sound at the beginning.

It seems like it should be pronounced Vee-Lay, Veeh-lay or Veeh-Lee and not Wheel-e how many people pronounced it.

by kk on Jul 28, 2014 7:01 pm • linkreport

Didn't someone say something about popping a wheelie? ;-)

by Dave G on Jul 28, 2014 7:56 pm • linkreport

Nice photo essay -- although you could have done more and given more exposure to the awesome SECURE bike room at Wiehle (I live here and despite it being a German word, it's pronounced Wee-lee -- live with it!).

The bike room has a tool bench with tools and can hold up to 200 bikes the way it's currently configured.

Yes, there are still more tweaks and finishing to do, but as a resident of Reston and avid cyclist, I am THRILLED that it's here and it's so nice.

by bike4me on Jul 28, 2014 10:12 pm • linkreport

The secure bike room and the underground (well, under the building) bus depot at Wiehle-Reston are fantastic. I do wish the outdoor plaza area between the station walkway and the "glasshouse" was lit, though. I assume it'll be lit up when development actually progresses in that area, but still, it's a bit disconcerting when exiting the brightly lit spectator bridge.

by SYH on Jul 28, 2014 10:55 pm • linkreport

Malcolm and Matt - sorry, I must be blind, anyway, great job - a lot of work and great angles!!

by Jay Roberts on Jul 29, 2014 8:26 am • linkreport

Excellent pix. Excellent ride.

Quick comment: On my ride yesterday, I was (a little) surprised there were no provisions for future in-fill stations at Wolf Trap or Hunter Mill. Any thoughts on if those are possible?

by Paul M. on Jul 29, 2014 9:33 am • linkreport

how much does it cost from city center to end of silver line?

by wm james on Jul 29, 2014 2:21 pm • linkreport

I'm so happy for DC. I wish other cities in the US, like my own, Miami, could expand their own metro systems the way DC has. Our federal government needs to seriously question its infrastructure funding priorities. Many cities NEED metro expansions now and for our future.

Congratulations, DC! Your city is only better now.

by Juan Carlos Contreras on Jul 30, 2014 2:51 am • linkreport

Having lived/ visited London and Paris, I have 2 things to say:
A. European cities are MUCH older than any city in the us, and have had much more time to develop. The London Tube and Paris Metro have been there since the 1890's. Systems like DC METRO have been there for less than 40 years. However a lot has changed in dc in 40 years. METRO did not havr e time to catch upto the city.
B. But, this is America, not Europe. We, unlike many european countries, are under financial stress and do not have the funding for huge and complex train systems.
That being said, the silver line (will) provide a safe(er), much needed, and faster route to Dulles and Reston/Tysons.

by LukasMaps on Jul 31, 2014 10:24 pm • linkreport

"But, this is America, not Europe. We, unlike many european countries, are under financial stress and do not have the funding for huge and complex train systems."

Really? FYI: Italy and Spain -- two countries under much more severe financial distress than the USA -- are continuing to invest in world class infrastructure.

Italy has Europe's most modern intercity rail infrastructure (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QiMCvvZuyXI) and driverless Metro systems in cities 1/3 the size of Baltimore (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtgkaQs1ouw). Even poor Sicily is building a massive three-line tram system in its capital city, Palermo. Naples is rebuilding its Metro system with stunning world-class stations: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TK4NkwFOlPw

Spain is also continuing to expand its high-speed rail infrastructure, as well as building massive new Metro extensions in cities, like Barcelona, that already have enviable systems.

The US is a rich country -- richer than Spain or Italy -- and can't make silly excuses for not investing in its infrastructure. We're not poor -- we just choose to spend our tax dollars on bombs, bullets and corruption rather than infrastructure that will improve the quality of life for everyone.

by James on Jul 31, 2014 10:36 pm • linkreport

It's pretty appalling that Italian cities of 200,000 people have better Metro systems than the capital of the "greatest country on Earth."

by James on Jul 31, 2014 10:37 pm • linkreport

James I rode a train like that from Rome to Florence. (Took 1hr 20 min or so, apparently.) Oh so quiet, nice!! Great views, too. *sigh* And with no added wait or hassle boarding or exiting, and no security agent getting fresh with my person. Just read that was 180 miles, or the same as that between Baltimore and NYC.

by asffa on Aug 1, 2014 12:24 am • linkreport

Gawd, I get a kick out of these comment threads.

Wiehle is NOT pronounced like a German word! The family who owned the distillery and estate whose land was sold for Reston were no doubt German-Americans, but in growing up in the area I never heard it pronounced anything other than "Wheelie." Just as hardly any American with the name Wagner says Vahgner. Let me guess, do you pronounce Wegmans Vegmans!? BTW, it's also perfectly correct to say "Paris" and not "Paree!"

James - you tell it like it is. The funny thing is it's not only that we stink at public transportation projects, in terms of both allocation of dollars and efficient spending of those dollars, we just tend to be wasteful with any large public spending projects. In inflation corrected, real world dollars, the Boston Big Dig was quite a bit more expensive than the Channel Tunnel! Oh the insanity!

by Davester on Aug 1, 2014 3:35 pm • linkreport

@Davester - Schoenherr Rd. in Detroit is pronounced in the German way as "Shayne-herr," so go figure.

by Dave G on Aug 1, 2014 4:07 pm • linkreport

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