Phase two will begin service four years behind schedule after political infighting and several setbacks, including problems with defective building materials. The opening date was announced days after a recent feud over the project: a dispute between Metro and the regulator that threatened further delays but eventually prompted Metro to launch service for airport passengers before Thanksgiving travel.
Metro News announced in a video posted on social media, in which several transit workers appeared while saying, “We are ready to welcome you aboard the Silver Line.” Customers visiting the new stations – Reston Town Center, Herndon, Innovation Center, Washington Dulles International Airport, Loudoun Gateway and Ashburn – will be greeted by metro workers handing out commemorative banners, a tradition that began when the first station opened in 1976.
Officials in Loudoun County, one of the nation’s fastest growing areas, say the sprawl will turn the community into a destination for tourists and businesses looking to relocate, with the area and Tysons and other corporate centers just a train ride away.
Matthew F. said: “It will bring opportunities to diversify our economy and provide new options for residents and travelers.”
Fairfax County officials, long frustrated with project delays, said they were relieved that the rail extension would finally open to commuters.
Metro general manager Randy Clark, who joined the transportation agency three months ago, thanked the regional agencies involved in the project.
Metro has publicly pledged to open the line in time for Thanksgiving holiday travel, a goal that will be achieved after a compromise between Metro and the regulator. The Washington Metrorail Safety Commission last week allowed Metro to use more of its 7,000-series trains, which have been ordered out of service for more than a year due to a wheel malfunction found in several cars during a federal investigation into derailment.
The commission allowed the phased return of the Series 7000 cars under a plan that included regular wheel checks, but the number of metro passengers was rising at a rate that transportation officials said was outpacing the number of available trains. Metro leaders said they would not be able to open the extension unless the commission made more trains available. The commission then allowed more cars to be released after Metro provided regulators with a plan that showed they could safely check more rail cars.
The spat between the two agencies led to the participation of elected regional officials before the commission approved the plan last week.
Clark said Thursday that he hopes to announce the opening date this week, provided Metro receives permits from the Safety Commission to open the line. He said metro workers were finishing simple tasks last week, such as installing missing sign boards.
The Silver Line extension includes a new railroad maintenance and service yard on 90 acres of airport property. Dulles Rail Yard is the largest rail yard in the metro system and employs approximately 700 people.
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