Bertha and Jim Harrod rode the first Metro train in D.C. when the Red Line opened in 1976. Today, 38 years later, they waited on the train platform at East Falls Church for the first public trip on the Silver Line, which takes commuters from Wiehle-Reston East all the way to Largo Town Center in Maryland.
“It’s so exciting,” said Bertha Harrod.
Today’s debut of phase one of the Silver Line marks the first addition of a color to the Metro since the Green Line opened in 1991. The 28-station line includes five new stops and 11.7 miles of new tracks that branch off from East Falls Church on the Orange Line: McLean, Tysons Corner, Greensboro, Spring Hill, and Wiehle-Reston East. Construction of phase one started in 2009; folks from across Northern Virginia visited the new Silver Line stations today to see the finished product of a construction project that’s been making noise in their backyards for the last five years.
“We’ve been watching them build it,” said Jee Hang Lee , who caught one of the first trains at the McLean station with his 5-year-old son Nathaniel, who says he wants to be a train conductor. “My son is a humongous train fan so we take the train whenever possible.”
Each of the new Silver Line stations had extra staff and security working, answering any questions and handing out opening-day Silver Line pendants. They were also selling commemorative Silver Line SmarTrip cards. There was even more pomp at the last stop on the new line, Wiehle-Reston East, where U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Mayor Vince Gray, and other area officials attended an opening ceremony followed by the inaugural ride at noon.
“This is just awesome, I’m pretty pumped,” said Rob Britton, a self-described transportation geek who caught the first train at the McLean station. (Britton holds a Ph.D. in transportation geography.) “One of the reasons we bought our house in Reston two years ago is because we knew the Metro was coming.”
Other transportation aficionados in attendance: William Bowling, who drove in from Richmond to get on the train at the East Falls Church station. He was wearing an collared Amtrak shirt because he is a fan of the passenger train company.
“I’ve been following the building of the Silver Line since it started so I wanted to see the first ride,” he said.
Longtime Reston resident Richard Sanger got on the train in Reston and planned to ride it all the way to the last Silver Line stop at Largo Town Center and back “just for the heck of it.”
Other passengers’ reasons for attending the opening were more practical. Reston resident Carlos Ponce works at the Wells Fargo in Mount Vernon Square and typically takes a bus from his house to the West Falls Church Metro station and then heads into D.C. Today, he just went to to Wiehle-Reston station near his house and took the Metro downtown.
“It’s faster,” he said. “Beats going all the way to West Falls Church.”
Metro projects that about 25,000 daily riders will use the five new stations after the first year of service. Construction of phase two of the Silver Line is already underway and will extend the line another another 11.4 miles to six new stations including Reston Town Center, Herndon, Washington Dulles International Airport, and Ashburn. That work is expected to be completed in 2018.
Photo by Perry Stein