Silver Line Schedule Thrown in Doubt Again

Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority officials overseeing the project to extend Metro’s Silver Line into Loudoun have dismissed contractors’ completion schedules as “unrealistic” and lacking credibility, casting doubt on an already-delayed mid-2020 forecasted opening date.

The airports authority is overseeing construction of phase 2 of the Silver Line extension—in other words, the extension of the Silver Line from Fairfax, through Dulles Airport and into Ashburn.

According to the September monthly progress report, Capital Rail Constructors—the consortium of contractors working on the project—submitted a schedule report in September that included “misleading and incorrect logic, violations of the contract schedule specification, and unrealistic assumptions, and therefore it lacks forecasting credibility.”

CRC’s subsequent submission in October did not address the changes the Airports Authority required, and conflicted with CRC’s own internal schedules, according to the authority. The contractor currently forecasts finishing work in June 2020 and achieving operational readiness after two months of testing.

The authority also rejected Hensel Phelps Construction Company’s forecasted schedule for work on the rail yard at Dulles Airport, citing conflict with the contract, inaccurate forecasting, and missing activities for the work.

Loudoun County Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) told his colleagues at their Oct. 17 meeting that at a recent Northern Virginia Transportation Authority Meeting, there did not seem to be much middle ground.

“The Metro report … was a little bit—I wouldn’t say shocking, but it was a little bit eye-opening for me,” Meyer said. And he said the friction between Metro and the Airports Authority over problems with Silver Line construction “are rather substantial and escalated at this point.”

“Metro’s perspective seems relatively hardened, that they won’t accept anything but totally redoing what has been wronged,” Meyer said.

But that, he pointed out, could potentially mean years of delay.

“We need to be thinking a little bit more pragmatically, obviously demanding that the contractor right the wrongs, but at the same time not taking an absolutist position that we’re not willing to negotiate at all,” Meyer said.

But Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) at that meeting said the differences might not be so pronounced.

“I agree with what you said, Mr. Meyer, that it doesn’t do anybody any good if ultimately there’s no path forward to what the public stances are, but I think that privately there is some progress being made there,” he said.

According to the progress report, the airports authority has been working with the contractors to meet the latest adjusted schedule to finish work in April 2020.

“I think there’s some skepticism with WMATA [the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or Metro] about that timeline,” Letourneau said. “As far as MWAA, I think everybody sort of understands it’s going to be really up to how quickly the outstanding issues with CRC are resolved, and I think there’s movement toward resolving those issues.”

In his personal view, he said—and has said before—the first quarter of 2021 is a realistic timeframe to be able to hop on a Metro train in Loudoun.

Joe Kroboth, director of Loudoun’s Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure, said it’s a type of dispute that is not uncommon in construction contracts.

“All I can say is, how we understand the completion of the rail project, and the information that we have communicated to our elected officials,” Kroboth said. The most recently adjusted overall schedule for the project called for work to be done in August 2019, but was delayed amid problems with concrete, rail ties and other construction defects. Now, CRC says it expects to be done June 2020. From there, Kroboth said, Metro expects five months of testing before beginning service.

“What we have been communicating to our elected officials is that the actual date for revenue start of the system is still, at this point, a soft date depending on how quickly they resolve some of these issues,” Kroboth said. “That would be anywhere from as early as Sept. 1, but through, say, December.”

Loudoun County Administrator Tim Hemstreet agreed it’s not unusual to disagree with a contractor over the schedule.

“What is important that we pay attention to is, are they generally in the same ballpark?” Hemstreet said. “So on a project like this, are they generally within six months of each other, because it’s a five-year project. So if they’re within six months of each other, they should at some point come back together.”

And he said as far as the county government’s elements of the project are concerned—such as the parking garages that have been built to serve the new Metro stops, and the money Loudoun has been putting aside to cover its share of Metro’s budget—Loudoun will be ready whenever the Silver Line is.

“We know that they’re within a year now of hitting that date,” Hemstreet said.

A spokesman for the Silver Line project was not immediately able to comment.

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6 thoughts on “Silver Line Schedule Thrown in Doubt Again

  • 2019-10-30 at 5:58 pm
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    Boondoggle! Money pit! No matter how many time Matt tries to tell us garbage is pretty it is still a piece of, of ..garbage.

  • 2019-10-30 at 9:32 pm
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    The Silver Line has proven that no government agency can be trusted to perform their basic functions effectively. The saga of the first phase is likely to be surpassed by the fiasco of the second phase.

    Politicians like John Bell fill campaign coffers from the Greenway toll owners and others promise us adequate commutes with projects that are likely to open a year late and stress the already tight Metro operating budget.

    I am spending several hours a day commuting from Loudoun to McLean. There is no relief in sight to this gridlock. You’d think we would have learned by now. I wish I had a solution. I wish they had a solution.

    • 2019-10-31 at 9:58 am
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      Sir, that is the sad truth. Transportation is such a problem in NOVA and it is no secret. You’d think over the decades elected officials would have solved the problem. But, alas, no such competent people have been found to fix the problem.

      We voters need to stop falling for the meaningless “transportation solutions” and start getting more granular in our expectations i.e. two more lanes on RT 7, what intersections will be eliminated, etc. We keep getting promises with little result.

      However, I will say the Loudoun BoS did a great job getting lights off Rt 7…the one real transportation solution we’ve actually seen.

      • 2019-10-31 at 6:58 pm
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        The construction company needs to fix the problem at no charge and within a set short time frame or face a lawsuit for recovery of all money paid and a vote in the next state legislature to prohibit the hiring of the company or any officer affiliated with the company, even if they take a new job-then that company is prohibited, for a period of 20 years on any contract with state or municipal governments in the Commonwealth…watch how fast the corrections happen!

  • 2019-10-31 at 9:45 am
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    Agreed Mr Orange! Statements like “The most recently adjusted overall schedule for the project called for work to be done in August 2019, but was delayed amid problems with concrete, rail ties and other construction defects.” are ridiculous, when the “defects” are a matter of the contractors cutting corners and putting more money into their pockets. No wonder “Metro expects five months of testing before beginning service.” They know the system is broken before it ever starts! And once it is running, I bet it will be shut down for service more than it will be operating…

  • 2019-10-31 at 9:53 am
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    The Government should not back down and if it takes years, then it takes years. The contractor poured substandard concrete that needs to be REPLACED. The contractor wants a band-aid fix that glosses over the problem so they can get paid and get out and stick WMATA with the problems down the road. The substandard concrete is a safety hazzard. If Metro is trying to clean up its own sub-par safety record that has lead to the deaths of many people, then accepting unsafe, foundational concrete is not the right answer.

    Ugh. What a faisco Metro has been.

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