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Rail News: Passenger Rail

USDOT marks weekend openings of Silver Line, Sun Link


U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) officials were on hand to help federal, state and local representatives celebrate the openings of two new rail lines this past weekend: the first phase of the Silver Line extension in the nation's capital and the Sun Link Streetcar line in Tucson, Ariz.

The 11.7-mile Silver Line extension is the first phase of a planned 23-mile extension of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's (WMATA) Metrorail service to Dulles International Airport and Loudoun County, Va. The line is being constructed by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) and is operated by WMATA.

"The Obama administration is proud to be a partner in delivering more world class transportation options to the Washington metropolitan area and connecting thousands of residents and visitors with major employment, education and economic opportunities throughout the region," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who attended the Silver Line opening, in a prepared statement.

The Silver Line's first phase includes five new stations, a 2,300-car commuter parking garage, the purchase of 64 rail cars, and expanded capacity at the West Falls Church rail yard. It extends Metrorail service from East Falls Church Metrorail station through the large Tysons Corner employment and retail center to the Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail station in the Reston area of Fairfax County, Va.

The USDOT is providing $900 million in FTA Capital Investment Grant (New Starts) funding and $75 million in other funding toward the $3.14 billion total cost of the project's first phase. The remainder is being covered by state and local funding sources.

In addition, the USDOT has approved a $1.875 billion Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan for construction of the second phase of the Silver Line extension to Loudoun County.

Meanwhile, Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Chief Council Dorval Carter joined Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and other local officials at a ribbon-cutting event for the Sun Link Streetcar, which was funded in part with a $63 million DOT Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant.

The four-mile route connects the University of Arizona and the University of Arizona Medical Center with the Tucson Convention Center, the 4th Avenue Business District, downtown area and the Mercado District.

The Downtown Tucson Partnership estimates the project has generated roughly $1.5 billion in public-private investments along the corridor, including more than 1,500 new housing units, restaurants and retail establishments, according to an FTA press release.

"Roughly 100,000 people live within a half-mile of one of the new Sun Link streetcar stations, and that's great news for everyone looking for an opportunity to leave their car at home and take transit instead," said Carter. "We must continue to invest in transportation projects like this one that help the local economy to grow and give working families a chance to succeed."

Tucson's eight zero-emission streetcars were manufactured by United Streetcar. The streetcar line was built by Old Pueblo TrackWorks, a joint venture between RailWorks Track Systems Inc. and Granite Construction Co.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/28/2014