Add another sad irony to the legacy of that mythical public works project known as “Dulles Metrorail.”
History buffs may recall how, instead of opening as planned in the summer of 2013, that was when would-be commuters learned the Silver Line would be delayed until “late winter” which, technically, came and went yesterday.
And so it was yesterday that the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) announced that multiple problems had arisen which now make it impossible even to estimate a completion date for the project.
Although the lead contractor, Dulles Transit Partners (DTP), had declared six weeks ago the Silver Line metro extension to Wiehle Avenue in Reston “substantially complete” it was – we now know – substantially nothing of the sort.
On one hand, this can be viewed as just the latest in a history of delays for the commuter line that was supposed to be running last July, in an acrimonious relationship for going on three years between MWAA and the Bechtel Corporation-led DTP, lead contractor on Phase 1 of the rail extension into Reston and eventually Loudoun County.
For all those wondering when they can finally board that Wiehle Avenue train, however, DTP’s project manager said, “I can’t give you a time because I don’t have one.”
Now, normally when your key contact, at a company you are doing business with, claims ignorance about delivery schedules, disavows responsibility for providing such a schedule, and suggests he is cut off from the sphere of authorities by whom delivery will be determined, the subliminal message to you, the customer, is:
These are the signs of a dogsh** company whose employees are secretly laughing at you for being stupid enough to do business there.
When you are a government agency, however, you often can’t easily walk back from bad commitments, and when you are a government contractor you know the customer on the other side of the table is, frequently, not the sharpest knife in the drawer – giving you some leeway in the performance category.
Who is to blame for the latest delays is not clear, because at least some of the recently discovered problems might have resulted from miscommunication about new specifications for cabling and speakers. The types installed match those used throughout the rest of the Metro system.
One positive note for potential commuters is that, regardless of who is at fault, DTP must be motivated to get this project off their hands because of likely fines that will kick in in less than three weeks.
A few days ago I broke the news that the Silver Line – whenever it is completed – won’t change your life in this lifetime. Today, I make the further prediction that, by the time the Silver Line finally carries commuters in the coming year, many of the first riders will be wearing Redskins jerseys.
Assuming the Redskins make the playoffs.