Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Metro builds a "Silver Line" (Oct 4, 2010)

Metro has a new line under construction, the first since the completion of the Green Line (1985-2001). Construction began on the "Silver Line," aka "Dulles Rail," in March 2009. Phase 1 is scheduled to be completed in late 2013. This initial segment will run 11.5 miles from East Falls Church to Wiehle Avenue on the eastern edge of Reston. It will include four stations in Tysons Corner: Tysons east, Tysons Central 123, Tysons Central 7, and Tysons West.

Phase 2 is projected to get underway in 2016. When finished, this last phase will extend the line another 11.6 miles from Wiehle Avenue in Fairfax County to Washington Dulles International Airport and on to Route 772 in Loudoun County. New stations will be built at Reston Parkway, Herndon-Monroe, Route 28, Dulles International Airport, Route 606 and Route 772.

Source for the above: http://www.dullesmetro.com/

If you've driven the Dulles Toll Road, Tysons Corner, or VA 123 through McLean recently, you've encountered massive construction that has you gripping the steering wheel for dear life, daring not to steal a glance at the astonishing machines, piers and guideways along your route. On two recent trips out that way, I had camera on hand and was able to take a few shots so you don't have to risk your neck. Let me tell you, it's hard to get close to the work sites. Many places, especially along the Toll Road, are simply inaccessible. I had more luck in McLean by walking along Route 123 near the Beltway.

Last August 21, while returning from Sterling on the Dulles Toll Road approaching the Tysons Corner area (facing east) as wife Sheila handled the driving, I got off the following shots through the windshield. CLICK ON ANY IMAGE TO ENLARGE IT:

Hello, what's that thing up ahead, that big yellow thing?

It's called a truss, and is used to "lift large concrete segments into the air to create several miles of the aerial guideway spans in Tysons Corner" (quoting the April 2010 Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project newsletter). There are several of them currently in use on this project, and let me tell you, they're huge:

On October 1, I then made a special trip to McLean, Virginia, where route 123 (Dolley Madison Blvd) crosses the Beltway westbound and enters Tysons Corner. On an errand several days earlier, I had spotted a carnival of construction equipment there and wanted to document as much as I could. For orientation, I've provided a map of the area covered by these pictures. In the upper right-hand corner is the Dulles Access/Toll Road. The Silver Line will branch off from its route along I-66 and come this far, then turn southwest along route 123 and head for Tysons Corner--all above ground. On the other side of the Beltway, however, it dives into a tunnel for a short distance. This aerial photograph was taken before construction got underway:

In this picture we're standing alongside route 123 near the Beltway, facing east toward the Dulles Toll Road. In the distance you can see another yellow truss for lifting guideway sections into place. That's where the track will turn to the right (southeast) and run to a junction with the Orange Line along I-66. The construction seen on the left appears to be a station platform, as the concrete piers are wider and have more reinforcement than ordinary guideway piers:

Let's reposition to a point halfway between the Dulles Toll Road and the Beltway. The picture below, which faces east, shows a parade of standard track piers marching off toward the Toll Road:

Here's a finished pier of the tall variety:

And a shorty:

We're in the station construction area now, near the intersection of 123 and Scotts Crossing Road:

And now we turn toward Tysons Corner, visible in the distance:

Farther west from the station work site, the piers change back to the standard track-only type as the line moves toward Tysons:

Backing up a little here to get a west-facing look through the station-support piers:

Walking toward the Beltway, we glimpse yet another yellow truss high in the air. You have to wonder what tourists bobbling along the Beltway must think on spying that beast. "Henry, look out! It's one of them science-fiction things!":

Actually, it's like a giant mother opossum. See the "babies" (concrete guideway sections) clinging underneath?

Finally, I hopped back in the Jeep and drove across to Tysons, where the cut-and-cover tunnel is being built. Here's a recent aerial showing the work zone. Two tunnel sections are plainly visible:

The best I could do for a photograph was to walk out on the second floor porch of the Courtyard Hotel on the corner of International Drive and Route 123. In the two pictures below, you'll see the west end of the tunnel work area where the contractor has set up a concrete-mixing shed:

On the west side of Tysons Corner the line will come back into the sunshine, turn north, and reconnect with the Dulles Access/Toll Road, continuing westward on its way to the airport.

And that's a wrap for this visit to the Silver Line. In a few months we'll revisit to see if there's been enough change to warrant a new blog entry. If so, we'll once again swing into action, fulfilling our mission to cover the Washington, D.C.-area's railroad construction projects.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

D.C. Streetcar Construction Update (Sept 19, 2010): H Street/Benning Rd Line

While the Anacostia streetcar line is, so far, a line that begins nowhere and ends nowhere, the H Street line is smack-dab in the heart of a busy commercial district in Northeast Washington. From its western terminus at 3rd Street NE near Washington Union Station, the two-track line proceeds east to a junction with Benning Road and then continues almost to the Anacostia commercial district. Work has been fairly steady on this line, thus on this visit progress was noticeable since our last (May 2, 2010).

The city is also gussying-up this corridor with new sidewalks, a park (to be constructed in the lot on the left in the photo below), and modern sculpture here and there. The east end of the line is completed, and the west end has one track finished and another under construction. The only remaining gap is the block bounded by 13th and 14th Street, where the line must cross a five-way intersection to reach the completed segment on Benning Road.

For this report, I shot pictures (as I have for past reports) on a quiet Sunday morning. The photos below depict the H Street NE streetcar line as of September 19, 2010, starting at its western end (H and 3rd Streets NE) and proceeding east. A few were taken while on foot but most were shot through the windshield of my Jeep, dead bugs 'n' all. In the first photo, the overpass across Union Station's yard is directly behind me:

I was surprised to find this relic standing to the side of the streetcar right of way, evidently a very old police call box. I've since learned the city is preserving these old fellows. More at http://www.washingtonhistory.com/?q=content/call-box-project :

In this view between 3rd and 4th Streets, I turned around facing west:

Facing east again:

And here is where nothing has happened yet, the H Street block between 13th and 14th Streets. Straight ahead H Street encounters a busy five-points intersection with Bladensburg Rd, Florida Ave, Maryland Ave, and Benning Rd. Streetcar tracks have been installed just to the west of the intersection, then continue to their eastern end near the Anacostia River (Oklahoma Ave): 
Hello, what's this? Ah, good old H Street, where it's never dull:
In the photo below we're approaching five points to show where the tracks resume. We won't go any farther on this trip, however, as the line has been completed from here on and we've shown it already in the May report:
Turning around and heading back west now:
And we're back to our starting point at H and 3rd Streets:
Off to the right are several interesting new decorative features, starting with these retro-style streetlamps hung with fancy red signs proclaiming "H Street NE":
Even the new sidewalk got special treatment. The sign to the right announces, "Rehabilitation of H St., N.E. from 3rd Street, N.E. to 14th Street, N.E.":
Behind the sign above is an empty lot in the process of being converted into a park. So far, several pieces of outdoor sculpture have been planted, including this unexplained creation that appears to depict someone escaping out the apex of the Washington Monument:
That's it for this report, which I hope you found interesting. I'll be back with an update when there's something worthwhile to report . . . John