Silver Line Phase 1 looking great, Phase 2 contract imminent
Construction of the Silver Line Phase 1 remains on pace to finish in September. The construction team is testing the tracks and adding station details, including the finishing touches of the canopy at McLean station, shown below.
In Phase 2 news, authorities have identified Clark Construction and Kiewit Infrastructure to build the next phase, past Reston to Dulles and Loudoun County. An official contract is expected in May.
McLean Metro under construction. Photo by Stephen Barna of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.
WMATA has heard the criticism that its Metro stations are too dark, and will use Bethesda station as a pilot to test new brightening concepts. They’ll also test new features designed to speed passengers through more quickly, improve wayfinding, and increase safety.
Yesterday WMATA unveiled plans for its Metro station of the future. They are using Bethesda because it’s an underground station with a center platform, which makes it the hardest type to illuminate. If they can make Bethesda bright, they can do it anywhere.
Here are the 6 main improvements they’ll test:
New wall-mounted lights along the length of the platform, and new information pylons with larger signs and more real-time displays.
Reflective metal panels along the vending wall will be brighter, eliminate shadows, and reduce clutter.
Smaller manager kiosk will make room for more fare gates, which will be reflective metal instead of “Metro brown”.
Anti-slip flooring at the base of the escalators.
Overhead lighting in the mezzanine.
Glass walls replace concrete, allowing more light through.
Some of those would require expensive retrofits. Stainless steel walls aren’t cheap, and neither are all-new pylons up and down the whole platform. It’s probably unlikely that all 42 underground stations need or would get all of these improvements, to say nothing of the 44 above ground stations. It could be that some stations only need more lighting, while others only need more fare gates, or anti-slip floors. Some might not need anything at all.
As it moves forward, WMATA will have to tailor its specific improvements to the individual needs of each station. But before they do that, it makes sense to test the set at the worst offending station.
Maryland and Virginia will both enact major new transportation funding bills this year. Neither bill says exactly which projects will be funded, but here are the top 10 projects in Maryland and Virginia that most deserve to get some of the funds.
Number 1: 8-car Metro trains. Metrorail is near capacity, especially in Virginia. More Metro railcars would mean more 8-car trains on the Orange, Blue, and Silver Lines.
Number 2: Tysons grid of streets. Tysons Corner has more office space than downtown Baltimore and Richmond put together. Converting it to a functional urban place is a huge priority.
Number 3: Purple Line. Bethesda, Silver Spring, Langley Park, College Park, New Carrollton. That’s a serious string of transit-friendly pearls. The Purple Line will be one of America’s best light rail lines on the day it opens.
Number 4: Baltimore Red Line. Baltimore has a subway line and a light rail line, but they don’t work together very well as a system. The Red Line will greatly improve the reach of Baltimore’s rail system.
Number 5: Silver Line Phase 2. The Silver Line extension from Reston to Dulles Airport and Loudoun County is one of the few projects that was earmarked in Virginia’s bill, to the tune of $300 million.
Number 6: Arlington streetcars. The Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcars both have funding plans already, but could potentially be accelerated.
Number 7: Route 7 transit. Leesburg Pike is the next Rosslyn-Ballston corridor waiting to happen. Virginia is just beginning to study either a light rail or BRT line along it.
Corridor Cities Transitway, no. 8.
Number 6: Corridor Cities Transitway. Gaithersburg has been waiting decades for a quality transit line to build around. BRT will finally connect the many new urbanist communities there, which are internally walkable but rely on cars for long-range connections.
Number 9: MARC enhancements. MARC is a decent commuter rail, but it could be so much more. Some day it could be more like New York’s Metro North or Philadelphia’s SEPTA regional rail, with hourly trains all day long, even on weekends.
For the first time, an actual Metro railcar has started to appear on the Silver Line. Construction crews are pulling it along the tracks, checking to make sure there are no obstructions. Test trains will be a common sight through the rest of the construction period, until opening day late in 2013.
Overall construction of Phase 1 is 87% complete, and the tracks themselves are essentially done. The last 13% is mostly to stations and electrical equipment.
Photo by Leslie Pereira of Dulles Transit Partners.
Tysons Corner has more office space than downtown Baltimore, Richmond, and Norfolk put together. It should be the center its own large transit network. The Silver Line and express buses on the Beltway HOT lanes are good first steps, but in the long run Tysons is going to need more routes, connecting it to more places.
In the long run, Tysons needs something more like this:
In recent years, planners in Virginia have begun to seriously consider a Tysons-centric rapid transit network. It doesn’t have a name, and isn’t officially separate from any of the other transportation planning going on in the region, but it shows up on long range regional plans like SuperNoVa and TransAction.
It will be years before any of these additional routes are implemented, and they could look very different from this map once they finally are. Details don’t exist yet, because at this point these are little more than ideas.
But to work as the urban place Fairfax County officials hope Tysons will become, this is the sort of regional infrastructure it’s going to need.
Construction is moving along rapidly, which is great. But as the line takes shape, it’s also becoming clear just how difficult it will be to transform Tysons into a walkable urban place. Route 7 is so wide that these Metro stations are looking very much like Vienna and Dunn Loring. That’s not a deal-breaker (there’s a huge TOD under construction at Vienna right now), but it’s certainly less ideal than the tightly knit Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, which Tysons seeks to emulate. Highways punching through the middle of cities are bad, and Route 7 in Tysons will be no exception.
Here are a few photos, snapped while stopped amidst traffic on Route 7.
Spring Hill Station.
Elevated rail line, near Spring Hill Station.
Spring Hill’s pedestrian bridge, not yet installed.
Phase 1 of the Silver Line is 83% finished, and on target for a summer 2013 completion. It will open in late 2013, after a few months of required testing by WMATA. During that time trains will sometimes be visible running on the tracks.
A construction contract will be awarded for Phase 2 in May 2013, with construction starting later that year, and completion anticipated in 2018.
In early November construction crews put in place the pedestrian bridge at Wiehle-Reston East station that crosses over the Dulles access highway. Here’s a photo from the interior:
Photo by Chuck Samuelson of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.