Silver Line's Phase I Construction Completion
Coming in September
Don’t be surprised that you are seeing Metrorail trains in Tysons Corner months before the Silver Line is officially operating.
Trains — some as many as eight cars long — can been seen these days. They are all part of on-going testing that is necessary as the first phase of the project nears completion.
Phase 1 of the $5.6 billion Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project is an 11.7-mile extension of existing rail service from East Falls Church to the eastern edge of Reston. When construction is done, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) will then turn Phase 1 over to Metropolitan Washington Area Transit Authority (WMATA), the agency that will determine the date for the start of service, according to Patrick Nowakowski, the MWAA project’s executive director.
WMATA, which has said it anticipates a late-December opening, will operate the extension as part of its existing 104-mile system. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) is building the project.
Completion and opening of Phase 1 is already changing Tysons Corner, where there are four stations – McLean (along Route 123 near Capital One), Tysons Corner (along Route 123 at Tysons Boulevard near Tysons Corner Center), Greensboro (along Route 7 east of Route 123 near SAIC and Marshalls) and Spring Hill (At Route 7 and Spring Hill Road).
Transformation of Tysons Corner from a sprawling suburban office and shopping mecca into a urban center where people live and work has long been the goal of land use and transportation planners who along with major corporations, and shopping center owners and landowners have supported rail to Tysons and eventually to Washington Dulles International Airport and beyond for decades.
In fact, as Dulles Airport has just celebrated its 50th anniversary, supporters of rail can look back to the times just after the airport opened and thank those political and business leaders who had the foresight to plan for a corridor that would connect the airport with downtown D.C. That corridor now provides space not only for major highways — the Dulles Airport Access Highway and the Dulles Toll Road, but also the rail alignment.
When the rail line opens, riders headed eastbound will not have to transfer to get into downtown Washington. The Silver Line will provide a no-transfer experience from Tysons Corner and Reston all the way to the Largo Station in Maryland. Silver Line tracks will merge with the existing Orange Line tracks near I-66 and the Dulles Connector Road. Of course, riders can transfer easily at Rosslyn to get to Springfield and National Airport or transfer at other points to access other lines.
Trains will serve all the stops in Arlington and D.C. now served by the Orange line, a bonus for Arlington uses.
Passengers seeking to get to Vienna or Dunn Loring will have to transfer to a westbound Orange Line train at the East Falls Church Metrorail Station.
What’s Next with Construction
Construction of Dulles Rail began in March 2009, but many months prior to the official start, crews began the relocation of more than 20 utilities and made major changes to Route 7. The old service roads that lined both sides of Route 7 from the Dulles Toll Road to Route 123 were removed. All mid-block left turns were eliminated permanently. Now that the aerial bridges for rail are complete, crews are beginning to create the new alignment for Route 7 — four lanes of traffic in each direction and left turn lanes at the existing intersections. This work will cause some lane closings over the spring and summer.
Crews are also installing storm water management systems below the Route 7 bridges that carry the tracks. Later sidewalks will be built along both sides of Route 7 and landscaping and lighting is planned.
All along the extensions, crews are working on finishing stations and pedestrian bridges that will not only provide access to stations but will offer safe passage for pedestrians seeking to simply cross some of the region’s busiest roads – Routes 7 and 123 and the Dulles Toll Road/Airport Access Highway. All pedestrian bridges have been installed. Escalators and elevators are being installed in stations and pavilions leading to those stations. Track work is done and crews continue to work on the expansion of the rail yard at the West Falls Church Metro Station.
In order to ensure safe operations of the new system, extensive testing in cooperation WMATA has been under way for many months. Officials say even more testing will be done before the project is transferred to WMATA.
The first eight-car train ran along the alignment in late March and stopped briefly in the Greensboro Station, catching many drivers and workers in nearby buildings by surprise.
As one employee of a nearby business commented, “This makes it seem so real. Metro is really coming here.”
Tysons Transformation Beginning
Today, Tysons is the largest office market in Virginia and “one of the leading business centers in the nation” having more than 26 million square feet of office space, according to the Fairfax County Economic Development Authoirty’s profile of the Tysons Corner-McLean/Great Falls-Vienna area. There is more than six million square feet of retail space. Employees and shoppers flock to this mecca. More shoppers and more workers are expected when transit opens but transportation planners predict many will leave their cars at home.
Today about 16,000 people live in Tysons Corner proper but thousands live nearby. Planners of the future of Tysons see the numbers of residents growing ten-fold in the next 50 years. Today, construction is under way on several high-rise residential structures along Route 7, within easy walking distance of the Spring Hill Metrorail Station. Several are planned adjacent to Tysons Corner Center and others have been approved near Capital One and on properties along Route 123 between I-495 and the Dulles Connector Road interchanges.
Indeed, Metro is coming and with it Tysons Corner will change. A new economic dynamic and the influx of residents who live transit-oriented lifestyles will create a strong urban vibe where not many generations past dairy farms prevailed.