Wednesday, July 31, 2013

WMATA Silver Line Service Start Delayed Until 2014

The first phase of the Silver Line should begin carrying passengers through Tysons Corner to Reston later this year.
Houston area folks aren't the only ones having to wait for eagerly anticipated transit rail service to commence.   So are the peeps in the Washington DC metro area and Northern Virginia.

One of the things I have long loved about DC is flying into DCA, making a beeline to the train station platform just outside the terminal and jumping on the Metrorail trains to get me around town while I'm there.

The city traffic can be a pain in the butt at times to navigate, especially on the infamous Capital Beltway and near the federal buildings.  Parking in DC is at a premium, hard to find and expensive so I rarely rent a car there because of Metrorail. 

I don't like flying into Dulles or BWI when I need to travel to Washington DC because it necessitates a bus ride before I can connect to the WMATA rail system.   In BWI's case you also have the option of taking an $11 one way train ride to Union Station before connecting with the rail system.  But when I fly Southwest, until recently the only service they had into the Washington area airports out of Houston Hobby was either into Dulles or BWI.

ImageI keep a WMATA SmarTrip electronic transit pass with me with funds on it for that purpose since I frequently find myself in DC for various events.   

I was happy to hear as a rail transit enthusiast that the long talked about Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project was way beyond the chatter stage. WMATA finally started construction in 2008 on the first phase of the long talked about Silver Line that would eventually include a stop at Dulles airport.

Phase 1 of the Silver Line is 11.7 miles from East Falls Church, VA and the Orange Line to Wiehle Ave in Reston, VA. with four stations in Tyson's Corner, the median of the Dulles Toll Road that connects to I-66.  Some of the sections of the Silver Line are elevated and above ground while a section of it is running underground through a 2100 foot tunnel in Tyson's Corner. 

Phase 2 will be a 11.5 mile section with six stations running from Reston through Dulles Airport in the median of the the Dulles Toll Road to just west of Ashburn, VA with a rail storage yard near Dulles Airport.   The Dulles International Airport Station will be an aerial one across the parking bowl from the world renowned Eero Saarinen designed terminal building.

The first construction contracts for Phase 2 were awarded May 14 with actual construction starting after the initial surveying work in spring 2014.  The long awaited section of the line to Dulles Airport is projected to start WMATA revenue service in 2018.  

WMATA cars continue testing all along the Phase 1 alignment from East Falls Church to Wiehle Avenue in Reston. In this photo, cars are being positioned on the trail tracks for testing (west of the Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail Station) before being temporarily stored. 
While the Silver Line train tests are happening now for the Phase 1 part of the line and the fare service was supposed to start later this year, reports are that it is being delayed until January 1, 2014 according to the Washington Examiner due to construction delays on the West Falls Church Rail Yard critical to storage and operation of the Silver Line's rail cars.

There is a chance that Silver Line service could start in December.

But the end result is that despite the delay in the startup of WMATA revenue service, when it finally does crank up the opening of the Metrorail Silver Line puts the dream since 1962 of having a rail transit link between Dulles and our nation's capital much closer to being a reality.   

And us rail transit enthusiasts in DC and around the country couldn't be happier to have that happen.  

No comments: