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Metro takes control of Silver Line

Tuesday - 5/27/2014, 2:31pm  ET

WASHINGTON -- In a major step toward train service between Reston, Tysons and D.C, Metro took control of the long-delayed first phase of the Silver Line at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Metro says it now has up to 90 days to open the line to riders, but the agency will not be more specific at this point about an opening date.

The line has been beset by a number of delays tied to problems with construction or safety, including several that emerged after the contractor first claimed the line was substantially complete.

Most notably, the contractor installed speakers that could have been fire hazards, and there were problems with communications cables and a faulty track circuit.

Metro Deputy General Manager Rob Troup says while there are still some outstanding issues for the contractor to address while Metro completes testing and training, those major issues have been addressed.

"I don't foresee having any issues with anything that concerns reliability or operational delays," Troup says.

Metro is still looking at a more permanent fix for the track circuit, which was incorrectly sending a message through the automatic train control system that the tracks were occupied.

Sources have told WTOP that the line could open in closer to 60 days than 90 days as long as all testing and construction work goes according to plan.

Even if Metro takes all 90 days for further testing, training and safety certifications that are required before the line opens, passengers would be able to ride trains from Wiehle-Reston East and the four new stations in Tysons to D.C. and Largo by the end of August.

This first phase of the Silver Line was built by Dulles Transit Partners, a contractor working for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which had aimed to have this part of the line up and running last fall.

While Troup says he's highly confident the line will open this summer, he says "there's always concerns" that safety checks or testing could uncover a problem that could delay the opening further.

"We feel it's very important to be able to bring this service to the region in a very efficient manner. That being said, should [Dulles Transit Partners] not perform, then there may be issues with the opening date. However, we're tracking that very very closely, we're very pleased with the progress they've made so farů so we feel the contractor has every capability and intent to finish out the items," Troup says.

Should there be any further problems, he says Dulles Transit Partners, which is led by Bechtel, would likely come in to fix them.

Design work is well underway on the second phase of the Silver Line which will extend service from Wiehle-Reston East to Dulles Airport and Loudoun County.

Phase Two is being built by a different contractor.

Major construction work on Phase Two is scheduled to start next year, with passenger service beginning in 2018.

This is the first expansion of the Metrorail system since Largo Town Center and Morgan Boulevard stations opened in December 2004.

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