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Despite FTA concerns, Metro to begin yearlong rehab work soon

WASHINGTON — Metro’s yearlong rehabilitation work will begin in June even though the transit agency might not be able to tell riders exactly what lines will experience service reductions as quickly as originally planned.

“I think the sooner we get out there, the sooner we get ahead of this game,” General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said Thursday.

He was emphatic that track work and service reductions, like an end to late-night service on Friday and Saturday nights, will begin in just a few weeks.

He originally announced that the accelerated repairs to tracks and power systems would begin the first week of June.

However, Wiedefeld is considering changing the scheduled dates and the order of the shutdowns and track-sharing based on conversations with and a letter from the Federal Transit Administration. Discussions with transit administration officials continue.

The federal agency wants Metro to focus on a stretch of the Blue, Orange and Silver lines between Potomac Avenue and Stadium-Armory; the Orange and Silver lines near the Ballston Station; and the Red Line near the Van Ness Station.

Wiedefeld would not say whether the work between Eastern Market and Minnesota Avenue/Benning Road that had been scheduled for Aug. 20 to Sept. 6 would be moved up as requested by the FTA.

Wiedefeld emphasized that in addition to the five major shutdowns and ten single-tracking zones, Metro will continue to make other repairs at night, during the midday and on weekends.

“There are some safety things, just like across the system, that we’re doing now. So for instance, we’ve been up on the Red Line for the last two weeks,” he said.

That work, initially announced as a four-day surge to clean up power issues in a stretch perennially plagued by water in the tunnels, does not have an end date, Wiedefeld said.

The FTA request to address similar drainage problems all the way to the Van Ness Station adds to the work that will be done on the Red Line.

Metro has also reduce the speed of trains on the busiest stretches of track in Downtown D.C. at the urging of the FTA. Wiedefeld said that Metro had considered but discarded such a move previously as a way to cut down on the amount of power flowing through the third rail and reduce the risk of smoke and fire.

“I don’t know the answer, but I think it’s a combination of all of the above” causing the smoke and fire issues, Wiedefeld said.

He released his draft plan for major track work without specifically consulting the FTA or local leaders and is only now getting feedback after months of internal planning.

“It’s not a defense, (but) it’s a reality. Part of the way I manage (is) I make decisions, which, the downside of that, is sometimes I’m impatient,” he said.

Wiedefeld said he was spurred to even quicker action after sitting through the National Transportation Safety Board meeting earlier this month where the board identified a long history of problems with Metro, including major failures of senior management.

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