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Silver Line fate to be decided Monday

Saturday - 2/22/2014, 8:50am  ET

MWAA thinks there's still problems with Silver Line

WTOP's Ari Ashe reports

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WASHINGTON -- The future of the Silver Line and the date the delayed Metro line will finally open to passengers could become clearer Monday.

The Silver Line was supposed to open before the end of 2013, but problems with the automatic train control system forced a delay while engineers figured out the problem.

The contractor on the first phase, through Tysons to Reston, notified the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority on Feb. 7 that work on the project had been finished. MWAA has 15 calendar days to inspect the work and decide whether it is complete and safe. But since Feb. 22 falls on a Saturday, MWAA will make its formal decision on Monday, Feb. 24, says Pat Nowakowski, executive director of the Dulles Metrorail Project.

If MWAA certifies the Silver Line, then it would quickly be be turned over to Metro for additional testing. But the transition may not be instantaneous.

"ORD stands for Operational Readiness Date, it is the date on which WMATA determines that the project has achieved a level of completion that is sufficient for WMATA to perform their Operational Readiness Testing. There is no direct correlation between the contractor's achievement of substantial completion and WMATA's ORD, but the parties have worked very hard to have the two events occur simultaneously if possible. The final determination, however, is WMATA's decision," says Nowakowski.

Metro spokesman Dan Stessel declined to comment about the Silver Line, asking WTOP to come back to him after Metro accepts the project and begins testing.

But Fairfax County Supervisor and Metro board member Cathy Hudgins admits she's anxiously awaiting Monday's results.

"It's with bated breath because we know when MWAA gives its go-ahead, it still needs time to wait here at WMATA to go through the process and do our due diligence," she says.

Metro has set a 90-day window for testing, although Hudgins says she hopes that the delays have allowed Metro to coordinate to the point that some days could be shed off. With no interruptions, service could begin in June. But Hudgins doesn't want to set a target date.

"I won't tell a date for a very clear reason -- a date means that something might happen and if it doesn't, there's something harshly wrong," she says.

Nonetheless, Hudgins says she would be "very disappointed" if rail service on the Silver Line didn't begin before the end of this summer.

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