By Marcia McAllister

A bird’s eye view of the rail yard looking west February 2018. Photo by Hensel Phelps.

Have you wondered what all that construction is along the east side of Route 606 (Old Ox Road) at the western edge of part of Washington Dulles International Airport?

It’s construction by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority of a 90-acre rail yard and maintenance facility to be turned over to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) when Phase 2 of the Silver Line is completed.

The vast complex will be a huge mechanics shop designed to serve not just the Silver Line but the WMATA’s entire regional rail system. Rail cars will be serviced, cleaned, inspected and stored at the site located across Route 606 from the Mercure Business Park.

The Airports Authority is building the facility on land dedicated by the Authority, a hefty contribution by the authority in support of the rail project which will connect Dulles airport and Ashburn with downtown DC, Reagan National Airport and the region’s existing Metro System.

Tysons-based Hensel Phelps Mid Atlantic District is building the rail yard, which is 73 percent complete through February, as part of the Airports Authority’s construction of the Silver Line. A separate contractor, Capital Rail Constructors, is building the rail system itself—the tracks, rails, stations, etc.

Five structures as well as storage tracks, comprise the yard, including: a service and inspections building, a maintenance building, a train wash facility, warehousing space and a building that could be used for security. These structures are already in place but the interiors are not completed.  “Each building has a specific purpose,” according to HP leaders.

Those buildings each will hold complex machinery dedicated to Metro train operations. In addition, a 14,000-square-foot train wash facility is now 50 percent complete.

How will trains get to this facility since it is not directly along the Phase 2 alignment?  Lead tracks from the main alignment extending to and from the Dulles Greenway snake through Dulles Airport, following a heavily wooded path to the yard. The connecting tracks required the construction of a major bridge over Horsepen Road.

Yard contractors have worked closely with Virginia Department of Transportation crews who are widening Route 606 at the same time yard work is done. Many commuters have faced traffic backups during this work.

Rail Project officials expect the Silver Line to be completed in 2020. The rail yard must be completed before the entire system can be tested.  HP officials predict that will happen on schedule.

Charles Stark, senior vice president of the Airports Authority, this month said all crews area “plugging away to get this project completed.” While the winter weather has slowed down some work, contractors agree that time can be made up, according to project officials.  

Marcia is the Communications Manager, for the Dulles Corridor Metro Rail Project.