The Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project teams recently announced that they have completed the train control system connections of Phase 2 of the Silver Line to the rest of the region’s transit system.
Project officials say this is major step toward completion of the rail line extension from the Wiehle-Reston East Station through Dulles Airport to Ashburn in eastern Loudoun County.
Recently, Metro reopened six Fairfax County stations and restored its Silver Line service a few weeks earlier than expected amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The slow travel and commute period helped construction crews rebuild the deteriorating station platforms and complete work that necessitated the temporary suspension of rail service to allow for the second phase of the extension to be connected to the existing Metrorail system.
“This is great,” Charles Stark, MWAA senior vice president and head of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, in a prepared statement. “It’s a major milestone.”
Stark said finishing the tie-in means that the 13 previously planned WMATA shutdowns that had been planned in the coming months will not be needed. Crews were also able to do more work than they had anticipated, according to MWAA officials.
However, Loudoun County Supervisor Mike Turner (D-Ashburn), chair of the Board of Supervisors' transportation committee, called the announcement misleading. Turner said he reached out to WMATA and learned all the physical and software signal tie-ins to the existing train control system are not completed.
The effort is intended to connect the rail line extension from the Wiehle-Reston East Station through Dulles Airport to Ashburn in eastern Loudoun County.
"While I was very pleased to learn about the progress being made on the Silver Line extension and its tie-in to the existing Metro system, I was disappointed over the weekend to learn the MWAA statement to the press was significantly misleading," Turner said.
He added, "While I applaud the progress, WMATA must still validate and test the work just completed. WMATA has asked MWAA to clarify their statement. I continue to be hopeful for a Q1, [fiscal year] '21 operational date for the completion of the Silver Line extension."
Sherry Ly, media relations manager for Metro, said the actual "tie-in" can only happen after the signals at Wiehle-Reston are reconfigured in accordance with the work done over the summer.
The work, followed by validation and testing, will occur closer to substantial completion of the project which is still months away, she said. This will require buses to replace trains at Wiehle-Reston over three weekends to allow the tie-in to occur.
Project officials said there will be three additional one-day shutdowns in November and December for additional systems testing as well as dynamic testing. Once construction and testing are complete, the authority will turn ownership over to WMATA. WMATA will then conduct additional testing before setting the date to begin passenger service.
No timetable is set for an opening date. Most estimates for the Silver Line’s opening in Loudoun County are for the first half of 2021.
As part of the multibillion-dollar Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project’s Phase 2, Loudoun County will have three of the six new stations connected to the Silver Line, including Ashburn, Loudoun Gateway and Dulles International stations. The upcoming stations in Fairfax will include Innovation Center, Herndon and Reston Town Center.
Capital Rail Constructors has been constructing the Silver Line and its stations, while Hensel Phelps is constructing the rail yard and maintenance facility.