After four long years of delays, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s long-awaited Silver Line extension finally opened to the public on Tuesday, November 15, officially connecting the District of Columbia with Dulles International Airport and Virginia’s wine country by Metrorail for the first time.
The $3 billion project adds six stations along 11.4 miles of new track stretching westward from what had been the Silver Line’s last stop: the Wiehle–Reston East station in Fairfax County, Virginia. But now passengers can ride the Metrorail to Reston Town Center, Herndon, Innovation Center, Dulles International Airport, Loudoun Gateway, and as far as Ashburn (pictured above).
While this is exciting news for area residents, it’s also going to make things significantly easier for tourists visiting the region, especially those traveling through Dulles International Airport. Until now, a trip from D.C. to Dulles meant a pricey rideshare or taxi ride, often $50–$70 one-way depending on the time of day and traffic, or a transit adventure via shuttle bus from the Wiehle–Reston East station after a 40-minute stint on the Silver Line.
With the new Silver Line extension, it’s a 53-minute ride door-to-door from the Metro Center station in downtown D.C. to Dulles—and it only costs $3.85 one-way.
(Dulles International Airport in Virginia | Credit: Pixabay)
The only other option to reach Dulles was the 5A Metrobus, which, for $7.50, involved a 45-60 minute ride from the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in downtown D.C. Note that this service is being discontinued as of this week. Ditto for the shuttle bus from the Wiehle-Reston East station.
The Silver Line already connects the District with several Northern Virginia attractions, including the shopping paradise that is the Tysons Corner Center and Wolf Trap, a popular performing arts venue that offers free shuttles in the summer from the McLean Metro station.
Many of the new stops will also reach some places worth checking out. Reston Town Center sports a festive, family-friendly ice skating rink now through mid-March. And a shuttle bus from the new Innovation Center station will take you to Chantilly, where the Steven F. Udvar–Hazy Center—part of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum—houses the Space Shuttle Discovery, the Concorde, and an impressive Blackbird SR-71.
For a day trip outside the District, the Silver Line extension provides access to eastern Loudoun County, part of Virginia’s wine country. The area is home to a number of popular wineries, breweries, cideries, and distilleries that’ll now be just a short rideshare or taxi ride from the new Loudoun Gateway and Ashburn Metro stations.
(Bluemont Vineyard in Loudoun County, Virginia | Credit: Brian Balik / Shutterstock)
Started in 2014, the Silver Line extension was originally supposed to be completed by 2018. But the project ran into trouble due to construction and supply chain issues, the rising costs of building materials, train shortages, and other work-related restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The extension had been discussed as early as 1962, when Dulles International Airport opened. Clearly, this has been a long time coming and will go a long way toward making regional transportation easier.
Kaeli Conforti is a coauthor of Frommer's EasyGuide to Washington, D.C.