DC Metro Repairs Are About To Devastate Orange, Silver Line Commutes

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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The latest phase of repairs on the deteriorating D.C. Metro system will slam riders on the orange and silver lines for 24 days of massive delays.

The previous repairs on the system wrapped up on the the red line Nov. 22 and maintenance will now focus on a portion of track servicing the orange and silver lines. The repairs will run between the East Falls Church and West Falls Church stations and force all orange and silver line trains to run just once every 20 minutes, according to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).

Safety Surge 11 will begin Tuesday Nov. 28 and extend through Dec. 21 and trains will continuously single track between the East Falls Church and West Falls Church stations.

“There will be a severe reduction in train service,” Joe Leader, Metro’s chief operating officer, said during a press conference. “The first two weeks of this surge will be worse than anything most of our riders have experienced so far since we’ve started SafeTrack.”

Orange line trains will run once every 20 minutes between the Vienna and New Carrollton stations and silver line trains will run once every 20 minutes between the Wiehle-Reston East station and Largo Town Center. Officials are imploring orange and silver line riders to use alternative transportation for their commutes. (RELATED: Safety ‘Glitch’ Forces DC Metro To Remove Entire Fleet Of Trains From Service)

Riders are being warned that platforms and trains will be severely overcrowded, particularly during the morning and evening rush. Officials are also warning blue line riders to expect overcrowding on trains between the Rosslyn and Stadium-Armory stations due to the reduced service.

Federal officials revealed Nov. 16 that SafeTrack repairs of the D.C. Metro will likely extend into the summer. SafeTrack repairs, initially slated to be completed in 10 months, will require an additional three months, according to a progress report released by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

Officials originally budgeted roughly $65 million for the maintenance overhaul of the system. Federal officials revised the figure, estimating a total cost of $118.8 million. Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans, also a D.C. Council member, noted that since repairs began in June, officials are warned to expect revisions.

The report estimates repairs will conclude in June, 2017, rather than March, but federal officials are careful to say that repairs could face further extensions. Leaders at WMATA are expected to give a more detailed update on SafeTrack in December.

Declining ridership and unreliability due to SafeTrack is pushing the D.C. Metro further into a financial hole, prompting a controversial budget proposal from General Manager Paul Wiedefeld that slashes 1,000 jobs and hikes fares. Metro is strapped for cash and many localities appear reluctant to allocate additional funds to the transit system. The current budget shortfall at Metro is $275 million.

Metro made 321 million passenger trips for the fiscal year, which ended June 30, marking a 6 percent decline over ridership in 2015. Metro officials previously estimated ridership would grow by 3.2 percent this fiscal year. Analysts warn that if the trend continues, the D.C. Metro will have a $1.1 billion budget shortfall by 2020.

Council members in D.C. said in October they are willing to double their funding of Metro if Maryland and Virginia follow suit.

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