12/06/2012 02:41 pm ET Updated Dec 07, 2012

D.C. Metro Silver Line Introduction Will Force Blue Line Service Cuts

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WASHINGTON -- Don't expect the service complaints you've been hearing from Metrorail's Blue Line commuters to go away anytime soon. In fact, they'll likely worsen when Silver Line service is introduced at the end of next year or early 2014.

Why? With the Metrorail tunnel connecting the Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom stations at capacity, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority can't accommodate the current number of Orange and Blue line trains at rush hour in addition to new Silver Line trains, which will also use the tunnel.

The first phase of the Silver Line, which will eventually connect Dulles International Airport in Virginia to downtown Washington, will run from the edge of Reston through Tysons Corner and merge with the current Orange Line near the East Falls Church station and the Blue Line at Rosslyn.

This week, Metro released some additional information about future service patterns when the Silver Line opens.

As The Washington Post reported, when originally envisioned, Silver Line service was supposed to terminate at the Stadium-Armory station on the edge of Capitol Hill, where trains would use a nearby pocket track to reverse course. But when Silver Line service is introduced, those trains will instead run all the way to the Blue Line's terminal at Largo Town Center.

According to the Post:

The change is needed because of concerns about safety, according to the report. A pocket track that would have been used to reverse the train is on an elevated structure about a mile from Stadium-Armory, and it can’t be retrofitted with switches the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that Metro install to prevent derailments.

That change will be more costly and necessitate a host of other service changes. The biggest will be even more reduced Blue Line service, which was cut back in June to accomodate Metro's new Rush-Plus service pattern in preparation for the Silver Line.

Rush-hour service on the Blue Line through Rosslyn was reduced as a result. Some Blue Line trains from the Franconia-Springfield terminal headed for downtown Washington were rerouted via the Yellow Line bridge and rebranded as Rush-Plus Yellow Line trains.

After the Silver Line opens, Blue Line train service will be reduced during non-peak hours, too. Blue Line trains will run every 12 minutes during peak and non-peak hours.

While Blue Line commuters from places like King Street, Crystal City and Pentagon City with destinations in downtown Washington can use Yellow Line trains, those who connect with the Orange Line at Rosslyn for Virginia destinations like Clarendon and Ballston will see fewer trains running via Arlington Cemetery.

Orange Line commuters heading to and from stations west of East Falls Church will also be impacted by the Silver Line's introduction. That section of the Orange Line will see reduced service. But as the Post reports, many commuters who use the Vienna terminal will shift to the Silver Line's interim terminal at Wiehle Avenue in Reston. Multiple commuter bus lines that terminate at the Orange Line will shift to Silver Line stations.

The long-term solution for the Blue Line blues will be to build a new Metrorail line through the District of Columbia funneling Blue Line trains via a new tunnel from Rosslyn through Georgetown to downtown destinations. But the money for such a long-term solution is nowhere in sight.



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