The lead contractor that is building and overseeing the construction of Phase I of the Silver Line Metrorail project has yet to submit a timeline for rectifying several significant problems delaying the opening of the rail system from D.C. through Tysons Corner to Reston, Va.
One reason why the Silver Line is not ready to be handed to Metro for final testing is that the lead contractor Bechtel and subcontractor Alstom Signaling have yet to fix reliability problems with the signaling system — specifically, wayside computer units that communicate with Metro central control. Officials at the agency in charge of the project, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), say the computers, known as remote terminal units (RTUs), are failing too often. The failures do not endanger passengers but would slow the operation of the trains.
"All of the remaining problems with the train control system at this point in time are reliability issues as opposed to safety issues," said Pat Nowakowski, the Silver Line project director at MWAA. . . .And maybe the most important news in the article comes from Rep. Gerry Connolly: "I share everybody's frustration, but we want to get it right, and the good news here is that Bechtel, as the contractor, has to bear the extra cost. So whatever the time delay and the cost associated with it, it is not a cost born by the project. It is a liability cost born by the contractor."
Well, that's almost good enough. I'm sure Bechtel and Alsthom will look for reasons that they should not have to bear the added cost. There was new tasking, a change order, different standards, etc. Anyone who has ever dealt with a major contract knows these kinds of arguments can shift the burden of cost responsibility--and further delay completion of the contract.
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