Monthslong Metro repairs to be ‘disruptive’

NBC Washington's Adam Tuss has more on the Metro plan (Adam Tuss on WTOP)

WASHINGTON — Metro riders can look forward to single-tracking around the clock and stretches of track closed for weeks at a time under a comprehensive plan to rehabilitate the aging transit system expected to be released Friday.

“This plan is going to be huge, it’s going to be disruptive,” NBC Washington transportation reporter Adam Tuss told WTOP. “I’m told that every single line will see some type of work.”

Track shutdowns could take stations out of service for weeks to give repair crews the time and space to rip out existing, old equipment and install modern replacements, he said.

“We are talking about rebuilding the system literally from the ballast — or the gravel under the tracks — on up,” Tuss said.

In some cases wooden rail ties that haven’t been touched since the system opened forty years ago would be replaced, he said.

“Metro says they want to get all of this work done in a matter of months and not years,” Tuss said.

Federal transportation officials have encouraged Metro to speed up the pace of its maintenance and repairs since they began investigating the 2015 fire outside of the L’Enfant Plaza Station that created heavy smoke and ultimately killed a rider who had been trapped on a train in the smoky tunnel.

The death of commuter Carol Glover touched off a series of investigations and inspections that uncovered the deteriorating state of Metrorail — the backbone of the region’s transportation network — after decades of neglected maintenance and a lack of independent oversight that could have identified safety problems sooner and held previous Metro officials accountable.

General Manger Paul Wiedefeld has been working on the accelerated repair plan for months. He has said the plan will cut down on the time it will take to get the system back into a state of good repair that can be maintained in the years ahead.

Wiedefeld has said the entire region will need to make changes to help ease traffic jams and other problems caused by weeks of single-tracking and likely station shutdowns that will reduce service at night, on the weekends, during the day and during rush hour.

The plan is also expected to address the tracks, power system and other related infrastructure.

Wiedefeld is expected to unveil his plan publicly at 11 a.m. Friday after having briefed Metro’s board of directors in a closed-door-meeting.

Board Chair Jack Evans told WTOP that the track repairs Wiedefeld will propose could cost $1 billion.

Despite the monetary cost and the inconvenience to commuters, he warned that the rehabilitation work is needed and cannot be put off any longer.

WTOP’s Max Smith contributed to this report. 

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