Despite persistent construction challenges at a new $290 million rail yard, a Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board project manager told members during a monthly cost and schedule update this week that the Metrorail's Silver Line service to Dulles International Airport and Ashburn, Virginia, will be ready for passengers around July 2020, according to WTOP. The entire Silver Line extension is expected to cost approximately $6 billion.
Authority project leader Charles Stark told board members that switches in the new Silver Line yard do not align with the tracks to which they should eventually connect, which could create a derailment hazard. In addition, the yard's train location systems have failed, posing a collision risk if not fixed, and the ballast rocks in the yard do not drain properly, potentially compromising their ability to support the weight of trains.
Stark said project staff will recommend that the authority not accept the project until contractor Hensel Phelps fully addresses these issues. The authority must accept the project before it can start the necessary two-month testing and training process in preparation for passenger service.
Last month, project officials told board members that the Silver Line might not be complete until late 2020 as all three phases of the project were behind schedule. It was during that meeting that staff also reported the entire Silver Line was about $260 million over its original budget. However, a Hensel Phelps representative did tell board members that the company might be able to make up that time, depending on how negotiations went regarding pending change orders and how long it took to complete some testing.
Hensel Phelps has the contract for the rail yard portion of the project, but Capital Rail Constructors, a joint venture between Clark Construction Group and Kiewit Infrastructure, is building Phase 2, which includes tracks and stations. The rail yard contract’s scope of work also includes service, maintenance, inspection and police facilities. Bechtel had the contract for Phase 1, which opened in 2014, but still must perform some utility relocation.
Other problems for the Silver Line have centered around concrete — defective concrete panels, which must be treated with a special coating now so that they will last; 400 concrete ties that are higher in the center than on the outside, which could cause tracks to tilt outwards; and cracking concrete pedestals at one of the system stations, reportedly due to lack of adequate reinforcement.
At the May 15 authority board meeting, John Potter, authority president and CEO, told board members, according to published minutes, that the MWAA will continue to work with the Metro and contractors in order to ensure a "safe, reliable and durable rail line that will serve the region well for many years to come, which will always take precedent over schedule pressures."