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Metro riders: Get ready for changes ahead of Silver Line

Wednesday - 5/28/2014, 4:47am  ET

metrosilverline.jpg
The peak morning schedule outline for Metro once the Silver Line opens. (Courtesy WMATA)

WASHINGTON -- Now that Metro has taken control of the first phase of the Silver Line, Metro riders and people who drive past Wiehle-Reston East and the new Tysons Corner stations should get ready for some changes.

Metro says there will be more activity on the tracks as safety checks and other testing and training kick into high gear, and the contractor finishes up work on remaining issues including drainage, a permanent fix for a faulty track circuit and fencing.

"We'll be running trains out there, mostly at night. We are allowing the contractor, DTP, to go out and work to resolve the issues on the track and the wayside areas that they need to clean up and finish," says Metro Deputy General Manager Rob Troup.

While Metro won't set an opening date yet, the transit agency says it has until late August to get the line open to passengers, barring any new problems with construction.

Sources have told WTOP that the line could open in fewer than 90 days if there are no unexpected problems in testing or training. That means the line could open in late July or early August.

Metro Transit Police say they will hold two large emergency exercises in the coming weeks to practice response along the Silver Line. The training will include a simulated rescue operation from the elevated tracks near the Spring Hill station and a separate response to another emergency situation.

"One week prior to opening, we will have what we call ‘simulated revenue service.' We will actually adjust all the schedules on the other lines accordingly for the Silver Line, and what we will do then is we will run regular normal Silver Line service that will tie in at East Falls Church. The trains will then run in revenue service," says Troup.

That means riders can ride trains that are labeled as part of the Silver Line between East Falls Church and Largo Town Center a week before the new Silver Line stations open in Tysons and Reston. While the trains coming from Largo will continue to the Tysons stations, passengers will be required to get off at East Falls Church.

"That gives our operators enough time to understand the operations out there, [and] our station managers enough time to be able to go through the stations and familiarize themselves with all the procedures and the opening and closing and where everything is," Troup says.

When the Silver Line does open, it will mean more frequent train service in many parts of the Metrorail system, but less frequent service in others.

Blue Line trains through Rosslyn will run an average of once every 12 minutes during rush hour, continuing the reduction in service first implemented as part of "Rush Plus." Under the changes, Arlington Cemetery is the only Blue Line station that will actually have fewer trains, because the additional Blue Line trains that run to and from Franconia-Springfield today will become Yellow Line trains that go from Franconia-Springfield into the District via the Pentagon and L'Enfant Plaza.

The other two stretches that will see fewer rush-hour trains once the Silver Line debuts are on the Orange Line between Vienna and East Falls Church, and between Stadium-Armory and New Carrollton (from every three-and-a-half minutes today to every five-and-a-half minutes).

Riders between East Falls Church and Stadium Armory, including on the often-packed stretch between Metro Center and Ballston, will see more rush-hour trains than they do today once the Silver Line debuts (once every three minutes). There will also be more trains during rush hour between Stadium-Armory and Largo (every four minutes instead of every six minutes), and between Pentagon and Greenbelt.

The changes were needed to accommodate the Silver Line because each stretch of track can only carry 26 trains per hour, and Metro was already using all of those slots to get trains in and out of D.C. at Rosslyn.

Metro doesn't believe there will be any more crowding on the Orange Line, since many bus routes that currently run to West Falls Church will instead end at the Wiehle-Reston East Station.

There won't be permanent parking lots at any of the four stations in Tysons Corner, but there is one at Wiehle-Reston East.

The Red and Green lines will have no rush-hour schedule changes due to the Silver Line's debut, but Green Line riders between Greenbelt and L'Enfant Plaza will have more Yellow Line trains available.

During off-peak times, Metro plans to simply add the Silver Line trains on top of existing service. That means there will be more service than exists today between East Falls Church and Largo Town Center.

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