Construction on the Silver Line of the Washington Metro, which is designed to extend to Dulles International Airport, is proceeding despite concerns about the possible settling of soil in and around areas of tunnel construction.

A March 6 report commissioned by the city’s airport authority, transit authority and contractors Dulles Transit Partners and Bechtel Corporation, revealed that although roughly an inch of settling has occurred in a tunnel at Tysons Corner, there is still sufficient room for a train.

“There is no safety hazard,” Marcia McAllister, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s communications manager for the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, said. “That leaves more than enough capacity for the trains to safely use the tunnel.”

Soil settling is a common issue in underground construction that can delay projects and cause safety concerns.

“Safety is MWAA’s top priority, and, though some settling of the ground is expected in significant excavations such as this, the assessment is being undertaken to ascertain the extent to which settling may have occurred,” Christopher Paolino,  media relations manager for MWAA, wrote in an email.
The first phase of the Silver Line project, which will run from the existing East Falls Church station to the newly constructed Reston station, is due to be completed in August of this year, and the line is expected to be in service by late December, according to McAllister.

McAllister also expects a contract for the second phase, which will run from Reston to Dulles Airport, to be issued early this summer and said that it will cost an estimated $5.6 billion. McAllister does not expect any further complications in the construction process, with the entire project slated for completion within five years.

“We don’t see any hiccups, but there is always weather,” she said.

However, the sequester — a comprehensive set of federal spending cuts totalling more than $1.1 trillion that went into effect March 1 — may impact overall Metro operations, even though it is not expected to affect the Dulles Corridor project.

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority spokesperson Philip Stewart said that while the authority has received about half of its federal funding for this fiscal year, about $8 million of the remaining expected funding could be compromised by the cuts. He added that ridership might be affected if federal employees face furloughs or layoffs.

“One thing we won’t compromise on [is] safety,” Stewart said. “There are no plans to scale back on our levels of service or our capital rebuilding.”

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