Just in time to alleviate some Thanksgiving travel congestion at D.C.’s largest air hub, the Metrorail this week announced passengers would soon be able to get from Dulles International Airport to downtown Washington, D.C. via public transit—a project 13 years in the making.
The extension of the east-west Silver Line, which currently includes 28 stops between Downtown Largo and Wiehle-Reston East, is slated to start service on November 15. After that, the train will stop at six new suburban stations along the 11.5-mile extension, including Reston Town Center, Herndon, Innovation Center, Dulles International Airport, Loudoun Gateway, and Ashburn. Until then, the closest station to Dulles, Wiehle-Reston East, is a little more than eight miles from the airport.
A one-way trip from the Metro Center station in the heart of downtown to Dulles will take approximately 52 minutes. From downtown by car, in good traffic conditions, it takes roughly the same amount of time but can take far longer during rush hour (and daily parking rates at the airport range from $12 to $27). An underground tunnel connects the train to the airport’s baggage claim area (roughly a five-minute walk).
Dulles is a hub for United Airlines, although 35 other airlines also use the major airport, including several international carriers. Flights from Dulles connect to 77 domestic destinations as well as to 59 international ones (primarily countries in Europe, Africa, and Central America). Between August 2021 and August 2022 (the most recent figures available), 20.3 million passengers passed through Dulles, an average of more than 55,600 people per day, according to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
The other airport that serves the capital, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, has long been connected to the rail system, but the smaller hub situated closer to the city center primarily serves shorter domestic routes.
These final 11.5 miles were part of a 23-mile, $3 billion extension project the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority started in 2009. The extension was initially scheduled to open in 2018 but was held up by construction issues (both genuine and controversial) and a shortage of train cars due to federal safety investigation (which was resolved by restoring suspended rail cars).
Customers who use the extension on the opening day will be given commemorative pennants by Metro employees, a tradition that started when the first Metrorail station was opened in 1976.