(Updated at 3:50 p.m. on 1/31/2023) Just three years after going a full season without Metro, Fairfax County’s Orange Line stations will again be subjected to an extended summer shutdown, as the transit agency works to upgrade some of its equipment.
As part of a larger maintenance work plan, the Vienna and Dunn Loring stations will be closed from June 3 to July 27 so Metro can replace a steel rail that has degraded, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Agency announced yesterday (Tuesday).
The replacement will unfold in two phases “to reduce the customer impact,” according to Metro. During the first phase from June 3-26, the closure will also include the West and East Falls Church stations. Those stations will reopen on June 27.
(Correction: This article previously reported that the Ballston and McLean stations will also be closed during the first phase. Metro has clarified that they will remain open, but a shuttle will be needed to get around the East Falls Church station closure.)
“The Infrastructure team will focus on replacing 40-year-old steel rail that has become significantly more susceptible to rail breaks than rail in any other part of the system,” WMATA said. “Metro has been tracking rail breaks in the system to identify priority locations for replacement and has determined the rail in this stretch of track to be a top priority.”
The work will also include a replacement of the copper cables at the stations with fiber-optic cables, giving them “advanced radio, signal, and train communication technology.”
Metro typically schedules its major maintenance projects during the summer when there’s lower ridership, according to the news release.
This year’s plan is focused on modernizing the rail system. It will also involve single-tracking on the Maryland end of the Orange Line from May 12 to 22 and a 44-day shutdown of the Maryland end of the Green Line from July 22 to Sept. 4.
“Continued maintenance work is essential to safe and reliable rail service,” WMATA Executive Vice President of Infrastructure Andy Off said in a statement. “We are working strategically to target maintenance locations and minimize the impacts on customers as we conduct this critical work to upgrade systems, improve reliability, and modernize station facilities.”
A Metro spokesperson said the agency is “working on a shuttle bus plan to connect the closed stations and will announce the travel alternatives well ahead of the stations closures.”
This summer’s partial Orange Line shutdown won’t be as extensive as the three-month-long closure of 2020, when Metro overhauled the station platforms.
When ridership plummeted that spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency expanded the closure to include the Silver Line between Ballston and Wiehle-Reston East so that it could connect those stations to the upcoming extension into Loudoun County.
The Silver Line stations ultimately reopened that August, followed by the Orange Line stations just after Labor Day. Even with the unexpected leeway for construction in 2020, the Silver Line extension still encountered several delays before finally launching service last November.
According to its online rail data, the Vienna Metro station is averaging the most daily rail entries out of the four Fairfax County stations that will be affected this summer, as of November:
- Vienna — 8,794 entries
- West Falls Church — 4,674 entries
- Dunn Loring — 3,543 entries
- McLean — 928 entries
In a quarterly report last fall, WMATA reported its highest ridership levels since the pandemic took hold in March 2020, though the 45.6 million riders across rail and bus was still just 60% of 2019 levels.
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