DC Metro’s ‘SafeTrack’ Plan Delayed As Officials Grapple To Meet FTA Deadlines

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

D.C. Metro officials confirmed Monday the final draft of the long-awaited “SafeTrack” repair plan will be delayed as officials work to meet safety deadlines given by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld announced a draft of the comprehensive repair plan May 6, promising a final draft by May 16. A recent track explosion prompted the FTA to step-in and halt Metro’s plans, which Wiedefeld said would probably impact his SafeTrack timetable. His draft outlined the broad strokes of the immense maintenance project, sparking frustration among commuters over long term delays expected from the repair work, reports Fox5.

The FTA gave officials a list of actions May 7, which Metro had to take by Monday, or risk the Department of Transportation initiating a full system shutdown. Metro must finish a number of safety related actions by the end of Monday pursuant to the FTA directive, including: retraining workers on emergency responses, reducing the amount of trains in service and conducting daily inspections of the system. (RELATED: Fireball On DC Metro Leads FTA To Slap Officials With Safety Ultimatum)

The FTA directive also addressed worker negligence stemming from inspections showing operators running red lights while approaching station platforms and ignoring speed restrictions. New speed restrictions were put in place May 11 and are expected to delay the rush hour commute. Riders already took note Monday as red line passengers experienced 30-minute rush hour delays.

The proposed SafeTrack initiative seeks to repair the entire system through a combination of single tracking, partial line closures and reduced service hours on every line, except the newly-constructed portions of the silver line. Wiedefeld said the planned “long-duration track outages” will allow Metro to complete three years worth of work in just one. The repair effort will have a ripple effect across D.C., especially during rush hour. The system will shut down at midnight, seven days a week beginning June 3, and repairmen will start their tunnel work at 8 p.m. every night. (RELATED: Transportation Sec Threatens DC Metro With Full Shutdown)

The D.C. Metro experienced track malfunctions again over the weekend, including another track fire near the Bethesda station. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx made it clear last week he is taking Metro’s repeated safety failures very seriously.

“Fixing the track is one thing, but some of these [incidents] may involve power plant issues, issues that go deeper into the system,” Foxx said last Tuesday. “It’s up to them. They have to follow the directive. They have to do it expeditiously.”

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