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WTOP Exclusive: Silver Line opening delayed until January

Friday - 6/14/2013, 7:55pm  ET

WASHINGTON - Metro's Silver Line was expected to open this December, but a top official at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority now tells WTOP that the official launch date will not be until early next year.

Sam Carnaggio, director of the Dulles Corridor Project at MWAA, made the revelation during a presentation at the Action Committee for Transit on Tuesday.

"The project from the contractor is expected to be completed by the end of September or in early October, so we're now projecting January 2014," he says.

Carnaggio says construction work is about 94 percent complete, with the remaining work being mostly cosmetic.

"We have to do station finishing work, to be able to complete the ceilings, the walls, to do some painting. Just like you would in your home or office building," he says.

"We also have systems work to make sure all the wiring and cabling will operate safely and function correctly so that (Metro) can operate the trains."

Once the Bechtel Corporation completes the work and the airport authority certifies it, Metro will take at least 90 days to independently test the trains and tracks and hire and schedule staff to operate the Silver Line.

When pressed, Carnaggio admitted Oct. 1 would be a likely date for the handover to Metro, making Jan. 1 the earliest launch date.

"Weather has played a role in the reason the date is where it is now and we are confident the contractor will meet it," he says.

Metro spokesman Dan Stessel tells WTOP that Carnaggio's timeline is accurate.

"We have been prepared for slightly earlier dates and also prepared for contingencies in the event the operational readiness date was pushed back. A late September (operational readiness date) is generally in line with what we have been advised to expect," he says.

"The (Metro) board discussed a number of scenarios with regard to the opening date as part of the budget planning process, including a pro-forma budget that envisioned a scenario where the line did not open until the fourth quarter. Based on latest available information, it does not appear that this scenario will play out."

The January 2014 launch date would be slightly later than several agencies have been publicly touting, including the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

At recent meetings for Fairfax Connector bus service, which will launch alongside the Silver Line Phase One opening, transportation officials told the public to expect a late December 2013 launch date.

As far as Phase Two, Carnaggio says the Clark Construction Group should begin work in July with noticeable construction beginning in early to mid 2014.

The second phase will extend Metrorail into Loudoun County past Dulles Airport and should be completed in five years. At this point, Carnaggio expects service to begin in January 2019.

Phase two will cost about $2.6 billion dollars to build.

Federal Transit Administration letter to MWAA

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