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Silver Line Testing Reveals Further Rail Issues

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

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The first test train to run on the Silver Line extension to Dulles Airport, in Washington, D.C., managed to only get 1,000 feet out of the Wiehle-Reston East station before encountering problems, according to a report from NBC4 Washington.

The cars were supposed to run the night of Feb. 5 as part of an extended testing process that’s slated to take months.

Silver Line Saga

This is just the latest in setbacks for the project. Previously, the Silver Line work was rocked by reports that employees of subcontractor Universal Concrete Products, of Stowe, Pennsylvania, falsified concrete test reports, certifying panels that were not made to specification. Andrew Nolan, who served as QC manager at the firm and allegedly oversaw the cooking of the books, pleaded guilty in August to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and agreed to cooperate with investigators.

The QC team at UCP allegedly changed values on reports indicating the air and water content of the concrete mixtures, and sourced aggregate from a different quarry than it had originally proposed, potentially leaving the door open to the alkali-silica reaction, in which aggregate reacts with cement paste, often creating cracking and spalling.

The whistleblower lawsuit, filed in 2016 by former UCP quality-control employee Nathan Davidheiser, was joined in 2018 by the federal government and commonwealth of Virginia. In addition to the allegations leveled against Nolan, the suit states that company executives ignored internal complaints about the fraudulent practice and in some cases demoted or even terminated employees who attempted to put a stop to the false reports.

At the end of September, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Office of the Inspector General announced it would take over the investigation into quality-control issues.

In November, alleged faulty concrete railroad ties came to light; lead contractor Capital Rail Constructors, a joint venture composed of Clark Construction and Kiewit Infrastructure, had discovered that roughly 400 railroad ties are up to half an inch higher in the center than on the sides.

New Issues

Now, in the recent testing, according to NBC4 Washington, the two-car train, which was pushed by an older locomotive, made it roughly 1,000 feet before encountering issues with the rail—the whole trip is 11 miles, however. This was the first time Capital Rail Constructors tested a set of railcars; another test was set to occur Wednesday night.

The news station also recently learned that 300 cracks have formed in buildings that are meant to be used for railcar maintenance for an extension.

According to WTOP, Metro crews used a locomotive to get a pair of two-car trains from Wiehle-Reston East to the Innovation Center Station on the morning of Feb. 7. The whole process took three-and-a-half hours. The cars will be further used to clean off the third rail near the Dulles Airport Station, which will further allow for additional testing of the rail line.


Tagged categories: Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Rail; Railcars; Testing + Evaluation

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