LANHAM, Md. (WNEW/AP) – The first Silver Line train departs the Wiehle-Reston East station on Saturday, but major changes across Metrorail are beginning this week in preparation for the opening.
Metro began six days of “simulated service” on the line Sunday to familiarize employees and finalize train schedules.
Testing will impact riders throughout the week as Rush-Plus Orange Line service will be replaced by two Blue Line trains shifting to the Yellow Line. During the morning rush, two fewer trains will operate per hour for Blue Line commuters heading into D.C. from stations south of Rosslyn.
Click here for a full overview of this week’s changes.
When the Silver Line opens at noon on Saturday, it will provide the first public transportation link between the National Air and Space Museum’s locations in Washington and northern Virginia.
The Washington Flyer bus service that currently operates between the West Falls Church Metro station and Dulles will follow a new route after Saturday. At that point, the bus will run instead from the Wiehle-Reston station to Dulles International Airport. The new route will be shorter and cheaper — $5 for a one-way trip instead of the current $10.
Metro says about 37 percent of existing Metrorail riders will benefit from shorter wait times while 10 percent can expect longer waits.
Metro General Manager Richard Sarles said the opening occurs in late summer months when many Washingtonians are on vacation and ridership dips, allowing for a smoother transition as Metro adjusts its train schedules to accommodate the new line.
The line runs through Tysons Corner from Reston to Falls Church on a route that roughly parallels the Dulles Toll Road. Preliminary work has begun on a second phase that will extend the line to Dulles. Phase II is projected to open in 2018.
Regional planners had sought the Metrorail extension for decades. Ten years ago, when planning began in earnest, officials believed the line would cost $1.5 billion and be finished by 2009.
The project teetered on collapse for several years as federal rail officials questioned the cost of the project in relation to the projected ridership. Engineers shaved costs in part by opting to build nearly all of the line above ground, disappointing those who believed a tunnel would be a less disruptive alternative.
When construction began in 2009, the plan had been for passenger service to begin late in 2013. But construction delays pushed the start date back by seven months. Sarles said Metro lost between $2 million and $3 million in projected revenue every month that service was delayed.