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Metro’s Silver Line extension to open Nov. 15 in time for Thanksgiving travel

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The second half of Metro’s Silver Line project in Northern Virginia will open Nov. 15, the transit agency announced Monday, expanding the system’s footprint deeper into Washington’s suburbs after years of cost overruns and delays.

The 11.5-mile extension will fulfill a long-coveted goal of connecting Dulles International Airport and a burgeoning tech corridor to the transit system and the nation’s capital. The completion of the 23-mile line will add six stations and mark Metro’s debut into Loudoun County, coming 13 years after the first phase broke ground.

The second phase will start service four years behind schedule after political infighting and numerous setbacks, including issues with flawed construction materials. An opening date was announced days after a final squabble over the project: a dispute between Metro and its regulator that threatened further delays but ultimately led Metro to launch service for airport passengers before Thanksgiving travel.

Metro announced the news in a video posted to social media, where several transit workers were featured while saying, “We’re ready to welcome you aboard the Silver Line.” Customers who visit the new stations – Reston Town Center, Herndon, Innovation Center, Washington Dulles International Airport, Loudoun Gateway and Ashburn – will be greeted by Metro workers handing out commemorative pennants, a tradition that began when the first station opened in 1976.

Officials in Loudoun County, one of the nation’s fastest-growing areas, say the extension will further transform the community into a destination for tourists and companies looking to relocate, with the District, Tysons and other corporate hubs a train ride away.

“At long last Metro will be serving Loudoun County,” said Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles), a Metro board member and Loudoun County supervisor who voted to bring the connection to the county a decade ago. “With it will come opportunities to diversify our economy and provide new options to residents and commuters.”

Fairfax County officials, long frustrated over the project’s delays, said they were relieved the rail extension would finally open to passengers.

Metro General Manager Randy Clarke, who joined the transit agency three months ago, thanked regional agencies that partnered in the project.

Metro had publicly pledged to open the line in time for Thanksgiving holiday travel, a goal that will be accomplished after a compromise between Metro and its regulator. The Washington Metrorail Safety Commission last week allowed Metro to use more of its 7000-series trains, which had been ordered out of service for more than a year because of a wheel defect found in several cars during a federal derailment investigation.

Metro weighs fare increase, rail improvements while prepping for Silver Line

The commission has been allowing the phased return of 7000-series cars under a plan that included regular wheel screenings, but Metro ridership has been rising at a rate that transit officials said was outpacing its number of available trains. Metro leaders said they wouldn’t be able to open the extension unless the commission made more trains available. The commission then allowed for the release more cars after Metro provided regulators with a plan that showed they could safely screen more rail cars.

As train shortage eases, Metro and bus systems prepare for Silver Line

The dispute between the agencies drew involvement from regional elected officials before the commission approved the plan last week.

Clarke said Thursday he hoped to announce an opening date this week, contingent upon Metro receiving accreditations from the safety commission to open the line. He said Metro workers were finishing minor tasks last week, such as installing missing signs.

The Silver Line extension includes a new rail maintenance and service yard on 90 acres of airport property. The Dulles Rail Yard is the largest rail yard in the Metro system and employs nearly 700 people.

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