Memo to whoever names major transit construction projects in metropolitan Washington, D.C.: do not use the word “silver” for their names. Ever. For some reason, that color seems to come with controversy.
Less than two weeks after touting a major construction milestone for the 11.4-mile second phase of the Silver Line light rail line to Dulles Airport, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) announced that the $2.7 billion project will miss its scheduled 2018 completion date by more than a year. Phase 1, which became operational last summer, could also $226 million over budget once all the bills are paid, putting its final cost $2.98 billion.
Design changes are to blame, says MWAA. Modifications to Phase 1, which was delayed by six months, influenced many of the reported 150 (so far) changes to Phase 2, many of which involve compliance with new state and federal stormwater management rules. MWAA is confident, however, that any added costs created by the delay will be covered by contingency funds.
Troubles have dogged the Silver Line almost from its inception. The debate over tunneling beneath densely developed Tysons Corner nearly derailed Phase 1 entirely (MWAA ultimately settled for an elevated line), while local jurisdictions pitching in to help pay for Phase 2 rebelled at the idea of an underground station at the Dulles terminal, contractor PLAs, and pretty much everything else associated with Phase 2.
Meanwhile in Maryland, another troubled “silver” project—the $140 million Silver Spring Transit Center—will likely miss its scheduled June completion date, adding another three to four months to a project that was due to be completed in 2011. Extensive concrete repairs, including reinforcement of precast supports and beams, were deemed necessary to ensure the 259,000-sq ft facility’s safety before it could become operational. Responsibility for the problems has yet to be resolved.
(It should be noted that not everything “silver” in metropolitan DC is similarly tarnished. The suburb where the transit center is located, Silver Spring, has undergone a highly successful downtown revitalization over the past two decades.)
So if silver has lost its luster as a project moniker in DC, what color might be used instead? Green—the color of the money that funds these major transportation projects—is already taken (a Metro light rail line). Purple, the color for the proposed 16-mile light rail line across Maryland’s Northern Suburbs, is no less a haunted hue these days, with the state’s governor still pondering whether to OK spending $2.45 billion on the project.
Copper might serve as a suitable shade, given its standing as a coveted commodity that’s often more prized at construction sites than equipment with keys left in the ignition. Chartreuse might work, if for no other reason than there’s likely no other Chartreuse Line in the world.
Just please. Anything but silver. It’s bad news.