The much-awaited Silver Line is finally here, and it’s running.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) opened the extension of the Silver Line on Tuesday from Ashburn Station at 2 p.m. sharp, following an inaugural ride for state, local and federal dignitaries an hour earlier from the Washington Dulles International Airport.
Metro’s Silver Line will now run from Largo in Maryland’s Prince George’s County to Ashburn in eastern Loudoun County, with the entire trip taking two hours.
The Silver Line traverses 44.1 miles, according to Metro Rail train operator Danielle Douglas, who was waiting inside the station kiosk with Station Manager Chanika Smith prior to operating the inaugural train from Dulles Airport to Ashburn. She said “the Silver Line will be Metro’s longest train line.”
The idea of extending a metro rail line to Dulles Airport dates back to the 1960s, but it took more than a half century to bring it to fruition. Along the way, the project was besieged with cost-overruns, opposition from community groups, safety issues, but, “in the end, the people have come together and made this work,” noted U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who at Tuesday’s inauguration called the Silver Line an example of “democracy in action.”
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Fairfax, was a Fairfax County supervisor in the late 1990s and early 2000s when the push for building a Silver Line extension to Dulles Airport began in earnest. At the inaugural, he compared with the problems local officials faced in extending the Metrorail to Dulles and beyond to Loudoun with the 1914 silent movie, “Perils of Pauline,” where a young heiress is unable to fulfill her desire to venture forth owing to one obstacle or another placed in her path.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, who was instrumental in overcoming federal opposition to the project and later securing federal dollars, summed the challenges up similarly: “Folks,” he said, “we have fought off everything other than a plague of locusts on this.”
Kaine, who helped broker the deal between Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), Metro, the Commonwealth of Virginia and local governments to construct the Silver Line while he was governor from 2002 through 2005, was overjoyed, as was Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia. Warner said “this is a great day, a great day” for smart growth and economic opportunity in Northern Virginia, and indeed the commonwealth itself.
A shout of “gates are open” rang out some 15 minutes prior to boarding at Ashburn Station in Loudoun, and dozens of people rushed through the gates to board the first train to Washington, D.C., nothwithstanding the gray skies, biting wind and incessant rain that bordered on freezing at one point. Douglas was exiting the Ashburn station, as Nakiya Norman, a train operator with 10 years of experience under her belt, prepared to take her place.
Sitting inside the train were One Loudoun residents Bobby Metzinger and Kaitlyn Ferguson who were there to participate in the inaugural ride and grab one of the many Silver Line pennants that Metro employees were handing out at the entrance. For Metzinger, who provides product support to the Manassas-based Carter Machinery Corp., the Silver Line will bring some more economic development into the county and be good for people who want to go to Dulles or to the Ronald Reagan National Airport.
“I think this is a really positive day,” Metzinger said.
These residents are the people that the Metro’s Silver Line will truly serve, noted Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall, D-At Large. Speaking at the Silver Line’s ribbon cutting, which took place an hour prior to the inaugural ride at Dulles Airport, Randall reminded the gathered state, federal and local officials that the Metro will undeniably improve the quality of life for the people “who we serve.”
“The people who we are here for do not care if there’s a ribbon cutting going on to be honest. They only know that they can now get around to their kids, do their jobs, get to their places of worship and games, shop and do all the things they couldn’t do before,” said Randall.
Loudoun County Supervisor Matt Letourneau, R-Dulles, who a decade earlier was instrumental in casting one of five votes in favor of county support for the Silver line extension, wasn’t about to let the gray skies dampen his enthusiasm for the project.
“Against the backdrop of this rainy November day, I think the Silver Line helps make it even brighter,” he said.