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The Next Step In Building The Silver Line

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Phase I of the Silver Line, shown here in Tysons Corner, is nearly complete. The bids for Phase 2 of the project will come in by April 19.
Jared Angle
Phase I of the Silver Line, shown here in Tysons Corner, is nearly complete. The bids for Phase 2 of the project will come in by April 19.

Travelers will wait until 2018 to be able to take a Metro train all the way to Dulles International Airport. Commuters will also have to wait that long to ride a train west of the airport into Loudoun County. But the process of building the second phase of the Silver Line rail extension is beginning this spring. On April 19, the contracting teams' bids are due and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority will reveal the winner of a contract to build Phase II this spring. Transportation reporter Martin Di Caro talks with Metro Connection's Rebecca Sheir about how a $3 billion rail line will be built — and how much the public will wind up paying for it. Following are highlights are their conversation.

On who will build the second phase of the Silver Line: "Deciding who will build the rest of the Silver Line will go a long way to determining its success. There are five teams involved in the bidding, and they are among the biggest names in the construction industry. Bechtel is building Phase I, which has gone very well, and Bechtel is among the five contractor teams in competition for Phase II. These five teams must submit their bids to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, or MWAA, which is in charge of the Silver Line, by April 19. And most importantly — low bid wins."

The quality of the design is not a factor, and on what that means: "Some believe the airports authority is inviting trouble. The quality of any one contractor's design will not give it an advantage over a competitor with an inferior design. Low bid wins, period. Brian Petruska is the attorney for the Laborers International Union of North America, which supplied workers in the construction of Phase I. He says the low-bid process opens the door for price escalation down the road, which the airports authority will wind up paying for."

On whether we should be worried if one of the aforementioned contractors wins Phase II: "MWAA also weighed past performance when pre-qualifying the five general contractors that will bid on Phase II, so it is confident it's picking capable firms. But let's remember, things can go wrong. Look at the Silver Spring Transit Center. The Springfield interchange was way over budget. Those involved contractors competing for Phase II, and the airports authority also has a mixed record in keeping projects on budget. Sources familiar with an internal audit tell us 82 change orders were largely responsible for driving up the cost of the Dulles Main Terminal Automated People Mover Station. It was awarded at the low-bid price of $184 million; Final cost: $388 million."

On what happens after the bids are submitted next week: The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority will announce the winning bidder in May, and then preliminary work will begin later this year. Completion date for Phase II of the Silver Line is 2018.


[Music: "The Debt Collector" by Blur from Parklife]

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