Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority officials celebrated the grand opening of six new Northern Virginia Metro stations to riders Tuesday, marking the completion of the region’s Silver Line extension project after more than a decade of construction.
The new extension, which provides rail connections to stations including Ashburn, Loudoun Gateway and Washington Dulles International Airport with 11.4 new miles of track, is the product of more than 12 years of construction and $3 billion in funding. Officials like D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg visited the new stations Tuesday along with 100 Metro riders during the Silver Line Extension’s inaugural train ride, according to a Metro news release.
Bowser said the extension – WMATA’s largest in eight years – is a “game changer” for the city and region that will bring new possibilities for business and travel. She said the stations’ debut marks the beginning of riders’ uninterrupted access to Dulles airport via public transportation, which is one of the city’s primary hubs for air travel with almost 400 domestic and international flights arriving and departing per day.
“Dulles was already known for the many direct flights it offers to and from destinations across the country and around the world, and now we finally have a direct and convenient connection from Dulles to downtown D.C.,” Bowser said in the release.
The total travel time for riders who board the Silver Line at the existing Wiehle-Reston East stop and get off at the final northernmost Ashburn stop is about 22 minutes, according to a Washington Post report. Silver Line trains will run every 15 minutes, but wait times will decrease to 10 minutes during rush hour as WMATA begins servicing more 7000-series trains.
WMATA officials said in an October release that the extension’s opening hinged on the number of 7000-series trains being approved to return to operation, teasing that the extension could be ready to operate by Thanksgiving. Metro removed its 7000-series railcar fleet from operations last year after a derailment on the Blue Line in October, but officials reintroduced 20 of the cars back into service between June and September as safety inspections on the 7000-series cars continued.
The opening of the Silver Line stations also marks the end of the two-phase Silver Line expansion plan that began construction in 2009, after officials added six stops in Virginia’s Fairfax County in 2014, completing phase one. Officials began construction for the second phase in 2014, originally planning to open the extension in 2018, but pushed back the debut due to construction complications and the COVID-19 pandemic.
WMATA officials said in a release Tuesday that the extension provides “high quality, high capacity” transit between the Dulles corridor and the District and is among the largest capital construction projects in the country.
“The completion of the Silver Line means a better, greener, more affordable way to get to work, school, shopping, entertainment and events, as well as easy access to Washington Dulles International Airport, a gateway to the world,” Metro General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Randy Clarke said in the release. “As one of the largest construction projects in the United States, the Silver Line provides high-quality, high-capacity transit service between the Dulles corridor, Downtown D.C. and Prince George’s County, Maryland.”