The manager of the Silver Line project says communications devices along the roadbed are not reliable enough. He has proposed a "Plan B" fix, but that fix may take a year.
A spokesperson at Metro says the transit agency could still run trains to the new stations, but only if human operators are stationed in a control room along the right-of-way.
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is overseeing the Silver Line project, has only a week to decide whether to accept the rail line from the companies that built it.
There will be five new stations on Phase 1 of Metro's Silver Line: four of them will be in busy Tysons Corner, and the temporary terminus will be at the Wiehle Avenue -- Reston station.
The project was originally scheduled for completion (and passenger service) in 2013, and some would-be passengers are getting impatient.
Marlon Cook told us, "I prefer it to be open [rather] than just sitting there doing absolutely nothing. So, hopefully, it's going to open up soon. I'm looking forward to it."
Because the Silver Line will ultimately go through Dulles International Airport, and because the Dulles Toll Road produces the revenue to pay for the project, it is the Airports Authority which is overseeing the construction.
The Airports board on Wednesday was told by the project manager that he is still not ready to accept the Silver Line as finished. Earlier problems with the automatic train control system have been resolved, said Pat Nowakowski, but a communications device is not sufficiently reliable.
"These Remote Terminal Units convey (to WMATA's Control Center) what the train control system is having the trains do," Nowakowski explained to reporters. "It conveys information. It's a communication device. And it's that communication link that is not functioning the way it should. It shuts down sometimes when it shouldn't. And it's supposed to reboot and it's not rebooting. So we can't have that. We can't have that going forward."
Project manager Nowakowski convinced the Airports Board to spend a little more money on the project to replace the circuit boards in the communications devices. They will fight later over who will pay for the fix.
Dan Stessel, a spokesperson for Metro, told us replacing the circuit boards could take as long as a year, but Metro could still run trains on the Silver Line. According to Stessel, the Airports Authority has agreed to pay Metro to staff (with a human) the train control room on the new Silver Line right-of-way. That would last until all the circuit boards are replaced.
Under the terms of the master construction contract, the Airports Authority has until Thursday, April 24 to decide whether to accept the Silver Line from the construction companies. MWAA has already turned down the companies once -- in November.
If managers at MWAA accept the Silver Line construction, Metro has 90 days to run tests on the system. Only after Metro is finished testing can passenger service begin.