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Weeks After Latest Delay, Still No Word On Silver Line Opening

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The McLean Metro station on the Silver Line will likely remain empty for the next several months.
Martin Di Caro/WAMU
The McLean Metro station on the Silver Line will likely remain empty for the next several months.

More than three weeks after the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) rejected its lead contractor’s submission of “substantial completion” for Phase I of the Silver Line Metrorail project through Tysons Corner to Reston, officials on both sides of the dispute over the project’s construction problems remain mum as to when it will be ready.

MWAA is scheduled to hold its monthly board meeting this morning, but the project’s directors are expected to publicly reveal few details about ongoing negotiations with the construction giant Bechtel and its subcontractor Alstom Signaling, whose work on the Silver Line’s signaling system is at the center of the repeated delays. The Silver Line originally was supposed to open in January, meaning “substantial completion” needed to be attained in September.

On Feb. 24 MWAA directed Bechtel to provide a timetable for the necessary fixes, but on Tuesday officials seemed to be at odds over who is responsible for the next step in the approval process.

“MWAA has yet to specify what it believes needs to be done before we can re-submit the substantial completion package,” said Bechtel spokeswoman Michelle Michael.

As per Bechtel’s contract with MWAA, the contractor faces fines of $25,000 per day if the Silver Line is not finished and ready to be handed to Metro by April 9, but Michael said that date is subject to change because Bechtel was assigned work outside the scope of its original design.

The airports authority declined to respond directly to Bechtel’s statement.

“Since we announced our decision on Feb. 24 that [the contractors] had not yet met contractual requirements for substantial completion, we've been meeting more than once a day with [Bechtel] and Metro to address the outstanding issues,” said MWAA spokeswoman Marcia McAllister.

McAllister said Bechtel has not delivered a timetable for finishing Phase I of the Silver Line.

Since Metro will need up to three months to complete its own testing and training of its workforce, a late summer opening is growing more likely for the largest expansion of Metro’s rail system since its inception. When Bechtel next submits the $3 billion project as “substantially complete” another 15-day review period would begin before MWAA issues its ruling.

Metro repeatedly has declined to speculate about a possible start date for Silver Line service.

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