The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, in conjunction with Dulles Transit Partners, the entity building the Silver Line, announced Wednesday that the expected substantial completion of Phase 1 of the Metrorail Silver Line project would be delayed by approximately eight weeks. The additional time is needed to accommodate further testing to assure the safety and performance of the systems and equipment before it is transferred to Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
In a presentation to the Airports Authority Board of Directors at its monthly board meeting, officials of Dulles Transit Partners explained that the eight-week estimate is based on what is currently known and might be adjusted. Project managers said additional tests will help them formulate a more specific assessment, which will be announced at the Authority’s September Board meeting.
“Our main goal has always been safety and quality – it supersedes all else,” said Airports Authority President and CEO Jack Potter. “Any project this large and complex is inevitably going to encounter unexpected issues that require additional tests and adjustments. With Phase 1 of the Silver Line nearly complete, there isn’t sufficient time in the schedule to recover from recently identified matters within the original plan.”
The project plan called for substantial completion of Phase 1 in early September, at which time the line would be turned over to WMATA. The initiation of revenue service, when the rail line begins carrying passengers, is set by WMATA and had been anticipated in late December following 90 days of personnel training, system tests and operation simulation. The announced delay in substantial completion is expected to have an impact on the start of revenue service. The Airports Authority and Dulles Transit Partners will work in conjunction with WMATA to limit the impact and to provide updates to the timeline as more information is available.
“In the meantime, we are in close coordination with Dulles Transit Partners and WMATA to make the final testing process as fast and efficient as possible – and to help get the Silver Line ready to begin serving passengers,” Potter said. “We will assure that all systems and components are working safely and performing as expected.”
While Phase 1, which connects Metro’s Orange Line in Falls Church, Va., to Wiehle Avenue in Reston, Va., approaches completion, the Airports Authority has begun early work on Phase 2 of the Silver Line, extending from Wiehle Ave. through Dulles International Airport and onward into Loudoun County, Va., ultimately extending the Washington region’s Metrorail mass transit system 23 miles into the fast-growing Virginia suburbs.
The Silver Line is expected to be a significant catalyst for economic development along its route and will provide new transportation options for commuters, in addition to providing a fast and efficient new option for passengers using Dulles International Airport.
Other items addressed during the Airports Authority’s Board of Directors meeting included reports on increasing numbers of domestic passengers at Reagan National Airport and international passenger growth at Dulles International. Together, the two airports served 3.8 million travelers in May – growing 1.1 percent compared with May 2012.
Dulles International Airport served nearly 2 million passengers in May – the busiest month for the airport so far this year. Growth was primarily driven by new service on United Airlines to Dublin, Ireland; Guatemala City, Guatemala and San Jose, Costa Rica and new daily flights on Emirates and Etihad Airways to the Middle East.
Reagan National set an all-time monthly record in May, serving 1.88 million passengers. Its growth was largely driven by service additions on US Airways, JetBlue Airways, Alaska Airlines and new carriers Southwest Airlines and Virgin America beginning domestic service.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority was established in 1987 by the governments of Virginia and the District of Columbia to manage and operate Washington’s Ronald Reagan National and Dulles International airports, which together serve more than 40 million passengers a year. The Airports Authority also operates and maintains the Dulles Airport Access Road and the Dulles Toll Road and manages construction of the Silver Line project, a 23-mile extension of the Washington region’s Metrorail system into Loudoun County, Va. No taxpayer money is used to operate the toll road, which is funded by toll revenues, or the airports, which are funded through aircraft landing fees, rents and revenues from concessions. The Silver Line construction is funded by a combination of toll-road revenues, airport contributions and federal, state and local government appropriations. The Airports Authority is led by a 17-member board of directors appointed by the governors of Virginia, Maryland, the mayor of Washington, D.C., and the president of the United States.