July 4, 2014: Independence Day for Metro’s Silver Line?

Wiehle-Reston East station.
Wiehle-Reston East station. (Credit: Dulles Corridor Metro Project)

RESTON, Va., April 9, 2014 – Originally rumored to be opening in December 2013, the first leg of the DC Metro’s Silver Line ran into the kind of irritating construction delays that often dog an ambitious construction project near completion. But Reston-based Bechtel Corporation was hopeful yesterday that it would file a key report today enabling the project to move toward final approval.

Along with its subsidiary, Dulles Transit Partners, the giant engineering firm first submitted its “substantial completion” paperwork to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA)—the Virginia-based government entity that is overseeing the project’s construction efforts—in February.

But after inspecting the project, MWAA rejected the filing, citing serious issues in fully 7 of 12 key requirement areas including water leaks, malfunctioning automatic control systems and, perhaps most astonishing, improper installation of speaker systems in all five of the project’s new Phase I stations.

Reports abound that Bechtel will submit new “substantial completion” paperwork sometime today, although as of 1:30 p.m. we have been unable to confirm its submittal. But if Bechtel’s current work passes muster, the project will be turned over to Metro which then has up to ninety days to test out the system and then, presumably, open the first phase of the Silver Line for business.

Opening day, assuming that all goes according to plan, could actually be on Independence Day, July 4, a date WTOP said officials confirmed to them. At this time, however, that date, may still prove speculative.

Bechtel and its subsidiary have good reason to hand in what they hope is a successful filing by COB today. April 9 is the last day they can submit their hopefully successful report before its Dulles Transit Partners subsidiary is required to start paying a $25,000 per day fine until the work is actually completed.

According to several sources, if, for whatever reason, the Phase I project hasn’t been completed by 92 days from COB today, the contractors will be fined approximately $2.3 million plus another $75,000 per day. The longer any delay stretches, the larger the penalty, although the construction contract stipulates that fines and penalties are capped at a $60 million maximum.

Below is an upbeat video by Bechtel that gives viewers a better idea as to the complexity of the current project, whose terminus is at the new Wiehle-Reston East Station. Phase II of the project, which is already underway, will take the Silver Line to Dulles Airport itself, terminating in one final station in Ashburn, Virginia.

Phase II, it is hoped, will be completed by the end of the decade.

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Terry Ponick
Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17