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.


  1. You should go further out and take photos of the Wiehle Metro Station under construction in Reston.

  2. An excellent job! The aerial photographs are awesome.

  3. A lot of time and effort went into this. Very informative. Great Job.

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