Metro on track to finish seal fixes ahead of schedule

WASHINGTON — In a system in need of large-scale work, Metro is set to complete one repair ahead of schedule, General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said.

On Tuesday, following the National Transportation Safety Board meeting on the deadly 2015 smoke incident near L’Enfant Plaza, Wiedefeld promised that missing seals would be installed on power connectors throughout Metro’s tunnel system more than a year earlier than Metro’s original completion date of September 2017.

“We’re moving to have that done by the end of the summer this year. And I’m having a particular focus on the tunnels because, obviously, if there’s smoke in the tunnels, it’s different than if it’s above ground. And I’m shooting to get that done (in tunnels) by June of this year,” he said.

The seals help keep out water and debris that can degrade the power cables and insulators, increasing the risk of smoke in the tunnels.

Rider Carol Glover died from smoke inhalation after her train became stranded in a smoke-filled tunnel near the L’Enfant Plaza Station in January 2015.

Water getting into the tunnel was also a key issue in the L’Enfant Plaza smoke incident, and Wiedefeld said the track work plan he is expected to announce Friday will address some of the factors involved.

“One of the things we have to do is we have to get the drainage working … you’re underground, you’re going to have moisture. But you have to maintain it to maintain the system,” he said.

The seal repair is just one of the problems Metro needs to address. The repair plan is expected to call for weeks of single tracking and shutdowns of some stations. The plan is intended to accelerate the pace of repairs and to get Metrorail back to the point where constant, large-scale maintenance is no longer needed.

Last week, a series of smoke incidents in the deep tunnels of the Red Line around Bethesda prompted a maintenance surge to clean up water and grime in the tunnels and make other repairs.

Wiedefeld has put off any plans to install better waterproofing in the perennially troubled stretch.

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