DC Metro Unveils Repair Plan That Will Cripple The System For One Year

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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D.C. Metro officials unveiled a draft plan Friday to overhaul the deteriorating transit system through a year-long schedule of repairs that will impact commuters on every line in the District.

“This is a military operation,” Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said at a press conference. “A massive undertaking. No doubt about it.”

Wiedefeld outlined the full reconstruction of the Metro system, dubbed “SafeTrack,” which will happen 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. He said the planned “long-duration track outages” will allow Metro to complete three years worth of work in just one.

Maintenance crews will work round the clock during a series of 15 scheduled “safety surges” on various sections of the track, and commuters on virtually every Metro line will experience rush-hour delays and full-on shutdowns of parts of the track at various points of the year.

“This plan is going to take some sacrifice from all of us,” Wiedefeld said in a press release. “But it is clear that the current approach is not working, more aggressive action is necessary.”

During the various surges, trains will be single tracked around the clock, greatly impacting rush hour service. Metro officials may initiate line-segment shutdowns as well, which will potentially close off certain tracks for weeks. Wiedefeld, who was brought on last year to reform Metro, said repair decisions can no longer be made based on rider convenience. (VIDEO: Watch A ‘Track Fire’ EXPLODE Right Next To DC Metro Platform)

“Metro’s safety culture change depends on support from the entire region,” Wiedefeld said. “We have to begin by understanding that safety trumps inconvenience.”

The repair effort will have a ripple effect across D.C., especially during rush hour. The system will be shut down at midnight seven days a week beginning June 3 and repairmen will start their tunnel work at 8 p.m. every night. Before the saftey surges begin, officials will be focused on repairing the electrified third-rail, responsible for many of the recent track fires. Wiedefeld said work on the third-rail begins immediately, and key equipment will be replaced throughout the entire system by the end of March.

“The Metro shutdown is so huge, traffic signals may have to be retimed to accommodate more drivers,” Washington City Paper politics editor Will Sommer tweeted. “#WMATA”

The first line affected will be the blue line in June between Franconia-Springfield and Van Dorn Street, expected to impact roughly 18,000 commuters. Metro officials are already coordinating with the Office of Personnel Management to discuss alternate transport.

Currently, Metro plans to close only five stations throughout their saftey blitz, using single-tracked trains for the bulk of repairs. At various times throughout the year Metro will partially close service at some stations, affecting Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Braddock Road, Pentagon City, Eastern Market, Benning Road, NoMa, Fort Totten and Rosslyn.

Wiedefeld stressed safety is their prime focus, encouraging commuters to make plans far in advance of single tracking and line shutdowns. A final version of the SafeTrack plan will be released to the public March 16.

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