Metro’s Silver Line extension officially began welcoming passengers Tuesday afternoon. The long-awaited conclusion of the project comes just in time to provide much-needed travel relief during the Thanksgiving holiday.
The unveiling of the line’s 11.5-mile second phase, which cost approximately $3 billion and comes years behind schedule, includes stations in Ashburn, Loudoun Gateway, Dulles International Airport, Innovation Center, Herndon, and Reston Town Center. In total, the Silver Line’s additions over the past eight years account for stops from East Falls Church to Ashburn.
The first passenger-filled train departed the Wiehle-Reston East station around midday. Regular service from Ashburn commenced at 1:54 p.m. Trains are slated to run every 15 minutes to start, with 10-minute intervals expected depending on train availability and high-travel times.
“With 420,000 people living within 5 miles of the new stations, the Silver Line Extension will improve mobility and provide greater access to jobs, entertainment, and shopping destinations,” Metro officials wrote. “Not to mention a direct ride to Washington Dulles International Airport, where more than 600 flights arrive and depart each day.”
Numerous events commemorated the extension’s launch, including one private ceremony at the Dulles station that included Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Metro employees handed out commemorative pennants at each of the new six stations.
While the opening indeed signals a welcome development with holiday travel around the corner, progress on the Silver Line extension has not come without its share of hiccups.
Most recently, uncertainties loomed over a potential pre-Thanksgiving opening date due to the limited availability of the 7000-series trains, which Metro officials claimed were a necessity to properly operate the extension.
Metro accused the Washington Metro Safety Commission of dragging its feet when it came to approving the trains’ Return-to-Service plan, but Max Smith, a spokesperson for WMSC, refuted those statements, saying the responsibility for the delays were Metro’s alone due to the transit agency’s failure to complete necessary safety checks.
The prolonged process drew the ire of Virginia’s Democratic senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, who released a joint statement in October decrying the back-and-forth.
“It’s taken decades to realize the dream of Metro service to Dulles and now travelers along the corridor can see tracks, gleaming new stations, and test trains moving along the route,” the statement read. “All that remains is for WMATA and the Safety Commission to get their acts together and remember that they are not in existence to wage turf battles but to serve the transportation needs of area residents. We are making it clear to both agencies: it’s time to get this done.”
Learn more about the Silver Line extension here.
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