The Wiehle Avenue Station on the Silver Line is taking shape. The major support structures for the station are already in place.
Across the Access and Toll Roads to the north, the transit oriented development Reston Station is underway with an excavation about the volume of FedEx Field to house a parking facility for more than 2,300 cars and bicycles, as well as a bus port and new streets to support the station.
Topping off this joint venture between Comstock Corporation and Fairfax County will be residential, office, and hotel facilities.
West of Wiehle Avenue is the beginning of Phase 2 of the Silver Line. No progress is being made on it because of an inability on the part of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) board to control costs to the satisfaction of its funding partners, every elected official I know, and the federal government.
For a couple of members of the MWAA Board to simply dig in their heels on a design that is not financeable and that has raised serious questions about the Board’s ability to make important decisions has left me and virtually all the persons I have worked with over the years on this project shaking our heads in disbelief.
A list of reductions in cost of over a half-million dollars is readily available, but it has taken the intervention of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to get MWAA to look at the options.
Central to the discussions of reducing costs of Phase 2 is the location of the rail
station at the Dulles Terminal. Original plans showed a tunnel of a couple miles with a station essentially under the daily parking lot.
Preliminary engineering found that plan to be prohibitively expensive. The MWAA Board considered several other options, including an above-ground station next to the North Garage and a shortened tunnel. The shortened tunnel option was chosen by the board even though it was more than $300 million more expensive than the above-ground station.
Since all other costs associated with Phase 2 had risen over the original guesstimate, it was clear that value engineering would need to be done on the project and savings would have to be identified.
Phase 1 went through a somewhat similar experience when planning for the project was put on hold for consideration of a tunnel under Tysons Corner. That option proved too costly as well. In a perfect world - where costs are not a
consideration an underground system - it would be nice, but in a suburban setting it is neither necessary nor cost justified.
Public officials and members of the press have walked the alternative routes at Dulles and concluded that the above-ground station is safe, accessible, and practical.
Wonderful progress is being made on Phase 1 looking to an arrival date at Wiehle in December, 2013. It’s decision time to move Phase 2 forward to keep a 2016 expected completion date.