Metrorail’s Silver Line Makes its Debut

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By: LeMara Perry
Silver Line Metro
After years of construction and months of detours and delays, the long-awaited first phase of Metrorail’s Silver Line made its debut Saturday July 26, beginning at the Wiehle-Reston East station in Reston

The Silver Line, operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, will change the Washington area’s employment picture as Tysons Corner companies begin recruiting workers who previously were unable to commute via automobile, said Michael Caplin, executive director of the Tysons Partnership

“The Silver Line means that people who want to live in DC can still pursue a professional career based in Tysons,” he said. “They can think about moving here later. And we, in Tysons, now [will] have a ballpark, art galleries and monuments within easy reach. The entire fabric of life here is enriched.”

The Silver Line’s first phase, construction which began in March 2009, stretches 11.7 miles from the Orange Line’s East Falls Church station to Wiehle Avenue in Reston and includes five new stations.

The project’s second phase will extend 11.4 miles west to Rt. 772/Ryan Road in Ashburn and includes six additional stations, including one at Dulles Airport. Work has begun on this phase and Metro leaders predict passenger service will begin there in 2018.

Passengers will be able to see almost all of the first phase’s route from the windows of their train. Most of the Silver Line’s tracks are located at-grade or on elevated trestles; the only tunnel is a short stretch between the Tysons and Greensboro stations.

Community activists tried years ago to have a tunnel built under most of Tysons Corner, but project officials instead chose to build elevated track sections there.

Some area residents are critical of the tall concrete “spine” of trestles in Tysons and project officials, at the suggestion of Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D), are examining the possibility of making the trestles more attractive using lighting or artwork.

Silver Line trains will arrive every six minutes during peak travel hours. The line’s operating hours will be Mondays through Thursdays from 5 a.m. to midnight, Fridays from 5 a.m. to 3 a.m. the next day, Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. the next day and Sundays from 7 a.m. to midnight.

Trains will take about eight minutes to travel between the Wiehle-Reston East and Spring Hill stations. Tysons Corner stations are spaced about two minutes apart and each stop will last about that same amount of time, Caplin said.

Metro expects to serve around 30,000 new passengers per day when the Silver Line starts running, and it’s reaching out to attract those customers via TV ads that are part of a $750,000 promotional campaign. There’s going to be some give and take for the D.C. area, though, as bus routes reshuffle and existing train lines see changes to the frequencies of arrivals going forward. Blue Line riders in particular have reason to be frustrated, and they’ve launched a petition to state their grievances, title “Save the Blue Line”

Blue Line trains will be reduced so that the Silver Line trains can get through. Trains headed to Arlington Cemetery and Rosslyn will be cut back.

Metro points out that if Blue Line riders transfer to the Yellow Line, they can get to some downtown points faster, but the group argues that changing trains will take nearly as much time.

The person who started the @SavetheBlueLine Twitter handle says Blue Line riders will spend an extra 15 hours waiting for trains each year once the change goes into effect.
In addition to changes on the Blue and Orange Line, The Washington Flyer bus service that currently operates between the West Falls Church Metro station and Dulles will follow a new route . The bus will run instead from the Wiehle-Reston station to Dulles International Airport.

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