Oct 20, 2022 - News

Metro is in a Silver Line standoff with the safety commission

A plane flies over the WMATA rail yard at Dulles Airport.

The WMATA rail yard at Dulles Airport. Photo: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Metro wants to open the Silver Line extension by Thanksgiving, but the agency still has safety hurdles to overcome.

Driving the news: On Wednesday, Metro announced that the Silver Line extension is ready to go, but it needs the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission to approve the return of additional 7000-series trains in order to operate the new routes. 

However, on Monday the commission rejected Metro’s plan to return the 7K trains, saying it’s flawed and needs to be revised. 

Why it matters: The return of the rest of the 7K fleet would allow for shorter wait times throughout the system. Plus, being able to deliver riders to directly Dulles via Metrorail for the holidays would finally be a big win for Metro.

Between the lines: Both agencies are pointing fingers, blaming the other for the 7K hold-up.

  • WMSC says it has concerns about the trains' axles, and that Metro has opted not to implement the commission's data-supported approaches to resolve the issues.
  • Metro, on the other hand, says the 7K trains are safe for passenger use and that some of the safety commission’s solutions were “infeasible” and “confusing.” 

What they're saying: “We have provided all of the available data and analysis we have after safely running 2.7 million miles [using 7K trains since June], however, WMSC has provided confusing direction,” Chief Safety Officer Theresa Impastato said in a press release. 

  • “I’m not sure how a letter with specific data … and even providing examples again of specific paths forward … would be confusing,” WMSC spokesperson Max Smith tells Axios. “We interact with people at all levels of Metro every day… and they know how to ask us a question.”

💭 Our thought bubble: Metro may have overpromised with its Thanksgiving goal considering it still needs approval to implement additional 7K trains, leaving riders still waiting for improved service and easier, cost-effective rides to Dulles.

  • The agency desperately needs to regain rider trust. Watching it clash so publicly with its regulator is bound to leave a lot of people even more disheartened.

What we're watching: It’s unclear what will happen next. Metro could revise and resubmit its 7K return plan for approval to WMSC.


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