Big fines may hit Silver Line contractor

VIRGINIA (WUSA9) -- The contract says construction on the first phase of the Metro Silver Line from Falls Church to Reston is supposed to be finished April 9, 2014. But with two delays pushing the project four months late, no one in charge is willing to hazard a guess this time.

"Making a deadline prediction at this point…there's no upside to that," said Former Congressman Tom Davis. He is the chair of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Dulles Corridor Committee. He is not happy the Silver Line's $2.9 billion Phase 1 continues to have delays.

"We're not going to accept something that's not ready to turn over to Metro. Because we're liable for any differences if Metro doesn't find it acceptable…It's not ready yet and it's not going to be ready tomorrow," Davis said.

One of the biggest problems was the communication system between trains and Metro's control center. It had glitches and needs replacing.

"It's not installed yet it hasn't been inspected yet and it's not the only problem we have," Davis explained.

One hundred speakers at each station are being replaced along with a cable through the Tyson's tunnel after an inspector found they didn't meet new codes.

"Hopefully we'll make the April 9th date. It will be acceptable; by that point, we can move on. But we want the public to know that that when this transit system opens, it's going to be Grade A-1, ready for business. It's going to be safe and it's going to work efficiently," said Davis.

If the project misses the contractual April 9th due date, the contractor, Dulles Transit Partners led by Bechtel, could be fined $25,000 a day. If the delay continues through July, those fine could increase to $75,000 a day. Those financial penalties are putting more pressure on project leaders to quickly correct numerous problems found by inspectors.

"If it's not ready, the Airports Authority can make some money on this," quipped Davis, reiterating the need for the system to be "`100% ready."

When might it be finished Davis won't say, but there is one prediction he will make. "My only prediction is that Nat's will win the pennant," he said.

But will folks in Reston be able to take Metro to a Nat's game? We can only hope.


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