The tortoise-and-the-hare race between the streetcar and the Silver Line continues—-and it looks increasingly like they’re both taking a nap.

The Silver Line appeared to take the lead when the streetcar blew a series of deadlines, making it clear that it wouldn’t come close to meeting Mayor Vince Gray‘s forecast of passenger service “starting in January, not later than early February.” But now the Silver Line has veered off course, too, nudging the streetcar back into a likely lead.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority announced today that the Metro line out to Tysons and Reston, Va., has come up short of meeting the requirements to be deemed “substantially complete.” Substantial completion is required before the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Administration can begin testing the line and running passenger service.

MWAA predicted in the fall that the line would be substantially complete in November. But MWAA and WMATA have found the line to be deficient in seven of the 12 criteria, including the following:

  • Failure to deliver certificates of occupancy for almost 20 wayside buildings, including stations, power substations and the tunnel;
  • Performance issues with the Automatic Train Control System that prevent WMATA from beginning Operational Readiness Testing;
  • Failure to fully correct defects that impact operations, including track gage problems;
  • Elevator and escalator problems, and water leaks in buildings;
  • Incomplete documentation for testing requirements and safety/security verifications.

“Substantial completion is a major milestone in the process of advancing the project to WMATA’s Operational Readiness Testing, safety certification and finally revenue service,” MWAA explained in a statement. “After determining operational readiness, WMATA has up to 90 days to conduct further testing and setting the date for revenue service.”

That makes Silver Line service before the summer unlikely, and gives the streetcar a glimmer of hope to win what’s increasingly a race of attrition. The streetcar is expected to begin passenger service within 30 days of safety certification, which has not yet been issued.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery