WAMU - Washington —
In a western suburb of the nation's capital, reinforced concrete pillars are rising high above Virginia's traffic-clogged highways. They represent five years of nearly completed construction work on one of the nation's largest transit projects.
The aerial tracks in Tysons Corner will soon begin carrying Metro riders into the Virginia suburbs as soon as the Silver Line—one of the largest public works contracts in the U.S.—is completed early next year.
Last week, the agency building the Silver Line Metrorail project gave a small group of reporters a tour of one of the unfinished stops, the newly named McLean Station.
Only once inside the station can one appreciate its size. Escalators at the entrances on either side of Rt. 123 will carry commuters up the mezzanine level; an elevated pedestrian walkway at this level crosses over the highway. The mezzanine is 650 feet long. Another escalator (or elevator) bay will bring passengers to the top level—the platform—that provides vistas of the new Tysons Corner rising up around the rail line. For now, safety barriers at the platform’s edges protect visitors from an electrified third rail that powers only test trains.
"We are on schedule to complete construction in November," said Marcia McAllister, a project spokeswoman. "Then we will be turning it over and continuing to work with WMATA to test and make sure that everything is perfectly safe.
She said the engineers and construction workers have a lot to be proud considering the difficulties of building a heavy rail life in a dense corridor. "It was a challenge to build it here in Tysons Corner. Tysons has 125,000 people working here and they are all driving in every day."
The heavy construction work on the stations and tracks is completed. The remaining tasks involve finishing touches (painting walls, posting signage, testing escalators) and testing the trains to comply with all safety regulations -- as well as syncing the Silver Line with the Orange Line tracks.
Phase I of the Silver Line will have five station stops and is expected to cost close to $3 billion. MWAA will eventually hand over the project to Metro, which will complete testing and worker training. The goal: opening the Silver Line for revenue service in early 2014.