All posts by Michael Langman

Capital Rail Constructors Joint Venture Celebrates Silver Line Phase 2 Opening

The much-anticipated project will serve area residents and visitors as a gateway for streamlined access to Dulles International Airport and beyond 

STERLING, VA—November 15, 2022— Capital Rail Constructors (CRC) is pleased to see the Silver Line Phase 2 service commence today. CRC led design-build efforts for Package A of the Silver Line Phase 2 project, which added 11.5-miles of new track from the Wiehle-Reston East Station to a terminus in Loudoun County, Virginia, and consists of six new Metrorail stations, including Reston Town Center, Herndon, Innovation Center, Dulles Airport, Loudoun Gateway, and Ashburn. 

“The delivery of this significant piece of infrastructure, including years of collaboration with multiple partners and the work of nearly ten thousand craftworkers, was an extraordinary team effort. It is our hope that the Phase 2 integration into the existing Metro system will increase job opportunities for residents of Fairfax and Loudoun counties, and provide a safe, reliable form of mass transit to commuters and visitors to the greater Washington region,” said Jesse Rice, a senior vice president at Capital Rail Constructors who oversaw the project’s delivery.  

The Silver Line extension provides enhanced connectivity and expanded public transit access to communities around the DMV and is projected to alleviate traffic congestion in parts of Fairfax and Loudoun counties and provide alternate commuter routes to key locales along the route.  

About Capital Rail Constructors  

Capital Rail Constructors, a joint venture of Clark Construction Group, LLC, and Kiewit Infrastructure South Co., led the design-build effort for Phase 2A of the Silver Line project. Phase 2 extends the Silver Line 11.5 miles west from the Wiehle-Reston East Station into Loudoun County, Va. 

Washington Dulles International Airport Station

Capital Rail Constructors Substantially Completes Package A of Silver Line Phase 2

Sterling, VA – Capital Rail Constructors (CRC) announced that it has achieved substantial completion on the Package A Silver Line Phase 2 project. The milestone signifies the completion of construction of the transformational project that extends the Metrorail system to Washington Dulles International Airport and beyond. CRC led the design-build efforts. The project is being managed by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA).

“After successful Phase 1 and Phase 2 tie-in testing at Wiehle Avenue, MWAA has approved substantial completion of the Package A Silver Line Phase 2 project. The project will now move into Operational Readiness Testing, which will be completed by MWAA and WMATA,” said Keith Couch, project director at Capital Rail Constructors. “This significant milestone is a testament to the hard work, dedication, and collaboration of the project team and stakeholders. The CRC team is proud to have been a part of this transformational piece of infrastructure for the region.”  

The Package A project provides 11.5 miles of new track from the Wiehle-Reston East Station to a terminus in Loudoun County, Virginia, and consists of six new Metrorail stations, including Reston Town Center, Herndon, Innovation Center, Dulles Airport, Loudoun Gateway, and Ashburn.

“This project was built by the community, for the community. It is the result of the significant contributions of nearly 10,000 craft workers – a large contingent from the Capital Region – all coming together to deliver an impactful project that we can be proud of,” said Couch. “It has been an extraordinary team effort.”

Once Operational Readiness Testing is complete, MWAA will turn the project over to WMATA to make the final preparations necessary to begin revenue service. 

Dulles International Airport Station Evokes Saarinen’s Vision

The Silver Line Phase 2A project will establish a long-desired Metro rail link between Washington, DC and Dulles International Airport, an airport often regarded as a post-World War II architectural gem. Just as the airport stands out for its one-of-kind look and feel, so will its new Metro station.

As the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) notes, famed architect Eero Saarinen wanted his modern design for what would become Dulles International Airport to capture “the soul of the airport.” To achieve his goal, he gave the terminal a curved wing-like roof and enormous glass facades between imposing, angled concrete columns that express ideas of flight and movement.

The airport’s new Metro station honors Saarinen’s vision, evoking some of the airport’s architectural aspects with a unique design that stands out in the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) system.

The 70,000-square-foot Dulles International Airport Station features unique concrete, glass and metal panels and finishes that set the station apart.  Its Y-shaped canopy will remind station goers of an airplane in flight. The overall look echoes the airport’s sleek flight-style while blending features from MWAA and WMATA.

Passengers who use the station will get an impressive panoramic view of Dulles International Airport thanks to the aerial platform, 50-foot glass elevators, and glass panes that circle three sides of the station. The four glass elevators in the center of the station will also provide views of the station and the airport as they shuttle passengers from the mezzanine to the platform. For their viewing pleasure within the station, WMATA’s “Art in Transit” program plans to install formed metal artwork surrounding four of the station’s columns that have a base of curved glass and uplighting.

“Dulles International Airport Station was designed to be the crown jewel of the Silver Line,” said Adam Wood, a project engineer at CRC. “The team did an amazing job ensuring that the new station reflects Saarinen’s architectural intent when he designed the terminal itself.”

By The Numbers: Silver Line Phase 2A

In a city of monuments, utilitarian public works projects rarely stand out. Commuters and visitors who hop on Metrorail to get around the Washington, DC Metro Area and to see the famous government buildings, memorials and museums, might not notice or consider the incredible amount of resources that goes into building a public rail line.

Heralded for connecting Loudoun County, Dulles International Airport, and Reston Town Center with Washington, DC and bringing some much-needed relief to area commuters, the amount of materials necessary to construct the Silver Line Phase 2A project boggles the mind and rivals some the area’s better-known sites.

  • 60,000 cubic yards of concrete were used on the project. That’s enough to fill over 3.5 Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pools.
  • Workers laid 260,000 feet of rail, which equals the length of 867 FedExFields.
  • The 22 miles of cable trough are enough to make 5.5 roundtrips between the White House and the U.S. Capitol Building.
  • The more than 700 miles of cable is long enough to stretch from Washington, DC to Chicago.
  • The project required more than 2 million tons of crushed aggregate from local quarries. That weighs the equivalent of 25 Washington Monuments.

Silver Line Phase 2A Public Improvements Go Beyond Metrorail

The Silver Line Phase 2A project will have a positive impact on the lives of Metro riders. But what many don’t realize is there are many additional improvements along the project’s nearly 12-mile stretch that will impact the safety and accessibility for the surrounding community.

Improved Roadways

Over the course of the Silver Line Phase 2A project, Capital Rail Constructors (CRC) has rebuilt many miles of road along the project to bring them up to modern standards. This includes widening roads, fixing roads in despair, and adding new signage, guard rails, and barrier walls to ensure all roads are up to modern safety codes.

Outside of the main arterial roads, project improvements include updated and improved limited access highways and local roads in expectation of increased usage by Metro riders who will come and go from station pavilions (access areas to the stations). This includes the addition of more turn lanes and traffic signals to keep traffic flowing smoothly.

For pedestrians and bikers, there are additional sidewalks and bike lanes for access to pavilions and side streets. Cyclists will also enjoy racks and lockers to make their experience easier and safer.

Pedestrian Bridge Spans

The Silver Line Phase 2A project includes 31 pedestrian bridge spans on the north and south sides of each station and over the Dulles Toll Road to ensure people can safely and effectively travel between the station’s parking lots and pavilions. Additionally, community members will be able to utilize these spans to cross from one side of the highway to the other without having to enter the Metro station or pay a fare.

Each span connects to a pavilion with two elevators, two escalators, and a stairwell to ensure commuters can comfortably enter and exit the Metro stations during rush hour.

But pedestrian bridge spans are more than just elevated platforms to walk from Point A to Point B – they’re gateways to new future development. The Silver Line Phase 1 saw a tremendous amount of growth and development surrounding its stations, and a similar positive impact is expected along the Silver Line Phase 2A project.

Ryan McBride, a senior project manager at CRC, said the project will transform its 12-mile stretch into Loudoun County, Virginia.

“If the development around Phase 1 doesn’t give you an idea of what kind of impact these bridges will have, I don’t know what else does – that whole area is buzzing,” Ryan McBride said. “Either construction or design is underway to put up mixed-use space – apartments, condos, retail. Really, the pedestrian bridges are the means of travel between these really cool new developments and the Metro system.”

Site Lighting

Lighting on the Silver Line Phase 2A is designed to make passengers and pedestrians’ lives easier and safer. The Silver Line Phase 2A stations will be the first on Metro to feature all-LED lighting in pavilions, parking garages, and its surrounding areas. In total, CRC has installed more than 200 new LED lighting systems on the line.

More efficient than traditional incandescent lighting systems, LEDs bring across-the-board savings. LEDs use 75% energy than incandescent lighting and last 15 times longer than typical incandescent light bulbs, minimizing energy and maintenance costs.

Also, unlike standard incandescent lighting, LEDs can be pointed directionally to areas where light is needed most.

For visibility, safety and security, LEDs cannot be matched.

Metro expects a high volume of pedestrian traffic walking from parking garages to pavilions to stations and vice versa. Lighting will be clear and bright for anyone using the Silver Line Phase 2A stations at dawn, dusk, or night.

Dynamic Testing Ensures Safety as Silver Line Phase 2A Nears Completion

As Capital Rail Constructors (CRC) continues towards the finish line on the Silver Line Phase 2A project, dynamic testing has begun. Dynamic testing is how CRC ensures the Automatic Train Control (ATC) systems meet Federal Transit Administration’s standards for certification. This includes any tests involving trains on the track that physically validate the rail system’s safe operation. In the Silver Line Phase 2A’s case, that means testing 11 train control rooms that act as the ATC’s brains that control the system.

Rail polishing

Before the Silver Line Phase 2A project could begin dynamic testing, CRC had to complete rail polishing. Ohm’s Law states Electric Current = Voltage/Resistance. On the Silver Line Phase 2A, this applies to the third rail – the one that carries the electrical charge that powers the train. After initial track installation, various crews remain at work completing their jobs and dust and particulate matter from their work can land on the third rail. When trains don’t run regularly on the tracks, the third rail can develop rust, or mill scale. This creates resistance, which must be eliminated through rail polishing to optimize the electrical connection.

For this project, CRC modified an F-550 truck that drives on the rails with a rig that polishes the third rail prior to putting trains on the tracks. The rig features a cleaning attachment that is more aggressive than a standard rail polishing system to help cut through mill scale and knock off rust before trains begin service.

So what goes into dynamic testing?  Here are two examples of the types of tests the team conducts to ensure the system will operate as intended – safely, reliably, and predictably.

Safe brake testing

Each of the line’s 11 train control rooms corresponds to a section of track. That section of track has a series of track circuits in it, and those track circuits represent blocks. Safe brake testing validates that the ATC system will put a train into a breaking condition prior to colliding with another train on the tracks.

Charlie Breeden, the testing director at Capital Rail Constructors, said the testing simulates the worst-case scenario – a train going faster than it should, or at an “over-speed condition,” approaching another train. Testers put a reflector on the track to simulate the other train on the tracks and install a receiver on the fast-moving train to detect the reflector. It has a 2-second hold time while testers simulate reaction time, brakes get applied and the train comes to a full stop. Testers then measure the distance from the point where the speeding train stopped to where the theoretical train/reflector is. That distance, or “margin,” must meet certain requirements. Physics (Distance = Speed x Time) can predict where the train should stop. Testing ensures it does stop consistently at that required distance.

As of early July 2019, CRC has completed approximately 50% of the safe brake tests with a 100% pass rate.

“We are substantially outperforming the model’s expectation,” Breeden said. “The design is even safer than it needs to be relative to the model, which assumes a worst-case scenario. It’s common on projects like these when you conduct safe braking tests to have to move some things around or adjust tracks, but we haven’t experienced that because of the conservative nature of the model.”

Control line testing

With brake testing more than halfway complete, CRC has begun preparing for control line testing. The control line is what ultimately provides commands to the train that tell it what it’s supposed to do. It transmits all information including speed commands from the train’s 11 control rooms to the train and from the train back to the train control room.

CRC will test the control lines using 7000 Series trains, Metro’s new preferred trains. Testers will run the trains in automatic mode and make sure they follow the proper speed commands, see that they react correctly, and ensure control rooms get clear indications about how the train operates. They’ll also set some routes and validate that when a train traveling on track one needs to cross over to track two, it happens automatically and safely.

Testing will begin later this summer on more than 800 control lines.

Breeden, an industry veteran with five other large-scale projects under his belt, said ensuring safety on the Silver Line Phase 2A project brings him great pride and satisfaction.

“It’s a big deal, right?” Breeden said. “It’s a large scope of work, an important scope of work and it’s something that’s going to be around for a long time. When you consider that, there’s a lot of legacy associated with the project that’ll be good to be associated with.”

Safety for crews and eventual Silver Line Phase 2A users remains his focus as the project nears completion.

“I think the most important thing passengers should know is that they’ve got a safe, operable system that’s been thoroughly tested and is going to be a reliable system for years to come,” he said.

Silver Line Safety: Leave just like you arrived

Safety on the Silver Line Phase 2A project began with the public works project’s early concept drawings, and it carries on today inspired by a simple motto: Nobody Gets Hurt.

Implementing a successful safety culture on a project of this size isn’t simple. Putting that motto into action requires commitment and consistent team effort on a daily basis. “It’s the responsibility of every crewmember on site,” said Curran Johnson, a senior superintendent at Capital Rail Constructors who has spent over four yearson the project helping to promote the “Nobody Gets Hurt” campaign.

“That’s our mindset – it’s an attitude that everyone who comes into work each day leaves the same way they came in,” Johnson said. “Nobody, including the public that interfaces with the job, has any reason to get hurt. You do everything within your power to make sure you and those around you are safe.”

Johnson, an 18-year industry veteran, has worked on several large, long-term projects throughout his career. For the Silver Line 2A expansion, Johnson said, planning began when it was still being plotted out on the drafting table.

“Whether we were adjusting a pre-cast girder to make sure it could be placed without it hanging over the roadway, or modifying a connection detail to reduce the risk to the trade contractors installing it, during the design phase our superintendents were thinking about how they were going to build it and what we could change or alter to build it more safely,” Johnson said.

A typical workday on the Silver Line Phase 2A project begins with crew safety meetings where superintendents discuss potential safety issues of the day’s work with trade contractors. Following these meetings, superintendents meet with foremen to ensure all crews have the access they need to work safely without interfering with each other’s crew work. Superintendents also ensure that everyone on site knows when train tracks are energized and where and when train cars will pass through for testing.

Beyond this, CRC’s field leadership team meets frequently to ensure all their safety goals are aligned. They discuss and look for seemingly little things – such as crews wearing proper safety vests, glasses, and gloves – and larger things, such as where and how safely ladders are set up and where temporary floor protection is down and how to make sure it isn’t a tripping hazard.

Johnson said the Silver Line Phase 2A project emphasizes safety down to the individual worker more than any other job he’s been on, including going beyond local, state, and federal safety regulations to make sure nobody on-site gets hurt.

For instance, within CRC’s job safety plan is a Temporary Structures and Construction Devices (TSCD) risk-assessment matrix that dictates the risk of an operation, defined mostly by the severity of a negative outcome and how much scrutiny to give to the planning of that operation. This safety assessment is particularly useful in higher-risk operations, such as bigger crane picks, support of the ground adjacent to roadways, or support of the ground during excavations.

CRC also promotes the safety culture with Crew of the Month Awards, where the safest crew gets a free lunch and other prizes to recognize their commitment to safety. It also has “Safety Bucks,” where superintendents hand out spot-bonuses in Safety Bucks that can be used to get baseball caps, t-shirts, jackets, and lunch coolers emblazoned with “Silver Line Safe.” These items have become a way for workers to show pride in the project.

“I love seeing how everyone understands that safety is everyone’s responsibility,” said Johnson. “This attitude ensures that ‘Nobody Gets Hurt,’ can continue to be put into action.”