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Silver Line Officials Take Pass On Guessing When Trains Will Roll

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The head of the agency building the Silver Line Metrorail extension through Tysons Corner declined to estimate when the rail line may carry its first passengers, a week after U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) raised concerns about project delays that could push back the start of revenue service to April.

Pat Nowakowski, the executive director of the Dulles Metrorail project, had said “substantial completion” of Phase I of the Silver Line to Reston, Va. would be reached by the end of November, but in remarks before the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) board of directors on Wednesday he did not estimate a new date. Phase I has cost close to $3 billion to construct.

“This month I am not trying to forecast when substantial completion would be. But I feel very confident it will not be an extended delay,” said Nowakowski in an interview with WAMU 88.5 FM.

The most recent delay of “several weeks” was prompted by the need to further test the software that will control the Silver Line’s Automatic Train Control system, which keeps trains operating at safe distances and speeds. Nowakowski said design engineers may have resolved the software issues and may now proceed with testing.

“We are at the point that the design engineers have developed a solution to the issue. They are meeting and reviewing that today,” he said.

After “substantial completion” is reached MWAA will hand over the project to Metro, which will have up to 90 days to complete its own testing and familiarize its news staff to the operations of the rail extension. That timeline would seem to indicate the Silver Line will not open until late winter or early spring, but Nowakowski declined to raise the public’s expectations again. Phase I originally was scheduled to open in January.

“Unfortunately, I don’t get to decide that, so I don’t know when it will be done,” he said.

Metro also has refused to estimate the start of revenue service for a project that eventually will extend to Dulles Airport and into Loudoun County in 2018.

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