News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Metro Construction: Running Late, Getting More Expensive, and Connecting to Woodbridge. Wait, What?

PH2007101501531.jpgDepending on who you talk to, the awesome Silver Color To Be Determined At A Later Date Line to Reston, Dulles, and the particleboard wastelands beyond is either just nine days behind schedule... or delayed well into 2014. We'll take the over-under on that one!

Officials with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is supervising construction of the line, said Wednesday that the project’s completion date has slipped from July 31, 2013, to Aug. 9, 2013. Upon completion, the line is to be turned over to Metro to operate and maintain.
Here's the best bit of hair-splitting we've heard thus far:
"Right now (completion of construction) is scheduled for August 9, 2013," [MWAA Chief Executive Jack] Potter said. "But here's what happens when construction is complete: The railroad is turned over to (Metro), which has six months of testing. So passengers will not have access to the rail until 2014."
So 2013 2014 2016(?) it is. Meanwhile, the contractors are bickering with the airports authority about what's going on, in part because of an boneheaded oversight issue building a substation at Hunter Mill Road.
Dulles Transit Partners, the lead contractor on the $2.8 billion project, estimated in a progress report last month that the delay was far more: 188 days.

MWAA officials dispute that estimate.

“They play games trying to make the case for us holding them up,” said Pat Nowakowski, executive director of the Dulles rail project.

He said MWAA is in dispute with Dulles Transit Partners, led by the construction and engineering firm Bechtel, over an electrical substation at Hunter Mill Road that will help power trains. The substations were supposed to be installed in sequence along the rail line, but crews found a gas line in the way at Hunter Mill, he said.
If only there was a way for construction crews to check for the presence of underground gas lines ahead of time, maybe over the phone or the Internet or something, so they would "miss" utilities. Maybe someday a visionary will come up with such a service. Right?

Meanwhile, our BFFs at Reston 2020 have also been looking at the depletion of the project's contingency fund and made some back-of-the-envelope projections of what cost overruns might do to Toll Road rates. (Spoiler alert: nothing good.)
Using the seemingly conservative monthly cost of construction reported by the Examiner--$40 million--a six-month delay would add nearly a quarter-billion dollars to Phase 1's total cost. This would mean a better than 12% addition to the period of construction and add nearly ten percent to the cost of the line, raising its price to three billion dollars.

With toll road users paying three-quarters of the extra quarter-billion price, tolls could quickly rise by up to ten percent above current MWAA projections for the full Dulles toll five years from now. In July, MWAA put fares between $4.50-$9.00 in 2016 as Dulles line Phase 2 construction begins. (Since the lower toll rate is based on the availability of federal TIFIA financing, which simply isn't going to happen according to US government officials, the higher estimate appears more realistic at this time.) At an extra $.25-$1.00 per trip for Phase 1, Reston commuters would need to ADD $1,300 to $3,500 to their annual commuting budget by 2016 if they travel through the main toll plaza.
But it will all be worth it, when someday we can take the Metro system directly from Reston to Woodbridge. Wait, what?
Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) has been pushing for a feasibility study for several years to assess the cost and impact of bringing a line as far east as Woodbridge.

“Metrorail to Prince William County is one transit option we should look at as a solution to relieve congestion at a reasonable cost to consumers,” Connolly said in a statement. “We are not saying that Metro should be extended, but it is important that we study its feasibility.”
To be fair, Woodbridge and our up-and-coming 'American City' (aka Tysons) have a lot in common: endless traffic, seas of auto dealership car lots, and some awesome retail. We say bring it on!


  1. You mean I have to wait until 2014 for my crappy townhouse to jump in value to one million dollars, so I can then retire to a cinder block manse in Cape Coral?

  2. The goose can only produce so many eggs. There is some max toll rate by which if you raise the toll higher than it would result in less overall toll income.

    Many think they are unaffected because they use route 7 or I66. Think again. Some who currently use the toll road will redirect their routes onto 7 and I66. If you think the roads are crowded now, you haven't seen nothing yet.

    This is going to be a real nightmare. Perhaps now is the time to analyze your living and working arrangements and bring one closer to the other.

  3. And oh, btw, the planners have already announced that they have no plan or desire to add parking lots to the Tysons Metro Stations. They want you to use the bus.

    With such little regard for quality of life, and with a greatly limited budget, you can be sure that the Weihle station parking lot will be inadequate to handle the demand. Plan on taking the bus to get to the Metro.

  4. Hudgins, head of the metro board, should resign.

  5. I hope there will be better Fairfax Connector bus schedules to serve as connections to the stations. A 554 bus every half hour like we have now along Wiehle from North Point leaves a lot to be desired.

  6. Wow, 10:29. Are you saying that you can't plan your schedule down to a half-hour? This is just proof of my theory that people will only use the bus when its value (in terms of cost and convenience) exceeds that of their car.

    You realize, of course, that even if you pay no heed to the bus schedule AND there's a bus hitting your stop every half-hour, that your average wait time should only be 15 minutes. That's not to say that there won't be times that you'll have to wait 29 minutes. However, if your appearance at the bus stop is truly random, your 29 minute waits will be offset by an equal number of waits of 1 minute.

    So, with even a vague idea about the bus schedule and a little planning of your own trips, you should be able to get that average wait time down to an average of 5-10 minutes. Considering the normal fluctuations in the bus operations is 5 minutes, that would put you well within the recommended wait times by the Fairfax Connector.

  7. The Convict writes:
    "This is just proof of my theory that people will only use the bus when its value (in terms of cost and convenience) exceeds that of their car."

    Yes, there is a lot of truth to that. County planners would be wise to consider that in making design decisions.

    However, county planners appear to have an alternate philosophy: "We'll persuade residents to take the bus by giving them no other options".

    The Convict writes:
    "that your average wait time should only be 15 minutes."
    I think it will be more. Consider:
    2.5 minute walk to the bus station (fyi, the walk should be so much fun in the 25 and 95 degree days)
    15 minutes to wait for the bus.
    2.5 minutes extra riding time (versus a car taking the direct route) because the bus takes an indirect ring-based route with many stops.

    Not to mention the strong possibility that the bus arrival to the metro station may not align with the metro train departure. You may have an additional 7.5 (on average) minute wait for the train.

    Double all this time for round trips.

    Also, factor in the safety of going home on the bus and walking from the bus stop at 11:30pm at night.

    Also factor in the fun of standing the whole time - walking to the bus stop, on a crowded bus, at the metro platform, on a crowded train. That will be great for people over 40 with bad knees.

  8. I'm over 40 and I've been using the bus/train/bike/feet as my main means of commuting for 10+ years to/from DC. At first it was a hassle, but I've since adjusted to it, and now use these same means to do a lot of my business within Our Corner of Paradize, especially by bike with the Delinquents and the Convictress in tow.


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