Developers hope the work in Tysons Corner will pay off when the Silver Line opens, likely later this summer.
In his most confident remarks to date about the opening of Metro’s first new line since 1991, the transit authority’s top official said the Silver Line rail project to Tysons Corner and Reston is in the “final stretch” during a conference call with reporters.
Metro general manager Richard Sarles said if Silver Line contractor Bechtel, known as Dulles Transit Partners, continues to make progress this week fixing the final construction problems that have held up the project’s completion, he will announce the date for the start of passenger service during next Monday’s weekly Silver Line conference call.
"Now we are getting to the point where if the work is done this week that is scheduled to be done, then my level of confidence will be high enough to establish a firm date," he said.
The president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, Jackie Jeter, has said Metro officials informed the union to be prepared to have train operators and station managers start trial runs on July 20. Metro has said throughout the past several weeks that passenger service would begin one week after “simulated service” commences, but Mr. Sarles declined to comment on any specific dates during Monday’s call.
The Silver Line, whose January opening has been delayed for more than six months thanks to a host of track signaling and construction issues, is undergoing the final stages of safety testing and certification. The Tri-State Oversight Committee has submitted its pre-revenue service safety review to Metro.
"Everything is looking good. There are some items we found that need to be completed. WMATA has time to do it. We have not found anything that will stop the line from opening," said Klara Baryshev, the oversight committee’s chairwoman.
The Silver Line is Metro's first new line since the Green Line opened in 1991. The Blue Line was extended to Largo Town Center in 2004. Construction started in March 2009.
Parking at the Tysons Galleria is for shoppers, they stress, not commuters. (Martin Di Caro/WAMU)
Silver Line utilizing buses, not parking
Now that an opening date is within sight — even if Metro remains tight-lipped as to when it might be — Metro and other transit agency officials are asking the public to familiarize themselves with the many new bus routes that will take commuters to Tysons Corner and Reston.
There will be no permanent parking lots at the four Tysons Corner rail stations. The robust bus service is designed to keep people from getting in their cars in order to reach the new mass transit system, whose first phase will end up costing close to $3 billion. When the second phase of the Silver Line is completed in 2018 to Dulles Airport and beyond into Loudoun County, the total Silver Line price tag with approach $6 billion.
“Metro bus will provide service to and from the McClean and the Tysons Corner stations. Fairfax Connector, which provides the bulk of the bus service in the Silver Line area, will connect riders to all five stations. Potomac and Rappahannocok Transportation Commission will provide service to the Tysons Corner station, and Loudoun County Transit will provide service to Spring Hill and Wiehle-Reston East stations,” said Metro’s Jack Requa.
Metro altered seven bus routes to accommodate Silver Line commuters, and the Fairfax Connector added several routes. Because the first phase of the rail line ends in Reston, Metro’s 5A bus will take travelers from Wiehle-Reston East to Dulles Airport. Fairfax Connector route 981 and Washington Flyer service will provide the same trip.
Commuters are being asked to familiarize themselves with the changes at SilverLineMetro.com and FairfaxCounty.gov.
In the meantime, mall property owners are preparing to enforce parking rules in Tysons Corner to prevent motorists from driving to their lots, parking free, and then taking the train to work.
“This is not commuter parking. This is shopper parking,” said Michael Caplin, the executive director of the Tysons Partnership, who said the malls are still figuring out how to keep commuters out of their lots that are a short walk to the rail stations.
“I have a feeling a lot of plans are still in development because no one really knows what the demand on the parking will be,” said Caplin in an interview at the Tysons Galleria lot.
“A lot of thought has been put into moving people without cars, so there is really no need to bring your car into Tysons,” he added.