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Metro is hoping to take control of the Silver Line next week, setting up a possible late-summer opening for the long-delayed line.
The line, which will run initially to Reston and eventually to Dulles International Airport and Loudoun County, is currently under the control of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. When construction is complete, MWAA will hand the line over the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which runs the Metro system, for final testing.
On a conference call with reporters this morning, Metro General Manager Richard Sarles said Metro was aiming for an operational readiness date of May 27, after which testing will begin. Testing is expected to take up to 90 days before passenger service can start. Sarles declined to give a target opening date.
“Up till that day, the contractor controls the railroad,” Sarles said of the operational readiness date. “After that day, WMATA controls the movement of the trains on the railroad.”
Under an agreement announced last month, MWAA will be able to complete final construction on the Silver Line after turning it over to WMATA. WMATA, for its part, will have to obtain certificates of occupancy from the relevant government entities and finish work on the PA and alarm systems, among other tasks. In late June, says Sarles, WMATA will conduct fire and police drills on the line, simulating emergency situations.
The Silver Line has been delayed considerably; it was supposed to be “substantially complete” in November. There were several causes of the delay, including tracks in one location that were too close together, necessitating further construction, according to Sarles. But with today’s announcement, it looks like the Silver Line may have taken the lead in its race against the streetcar, which Mayor Vince Gray said would be running by February but still doesn’t have a date set for passenger service.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery