Local business official: ‘People aren’t ready’ for Metro repair disruptions

WASHINGTON — Metro’s SafeTrack program, a large-scale reconstruction project that will require trains to share a single track and will create delays all over the system for close to a year, is only a few days away, and a local business official says commuters aren’t ready.

Jim Dinegar, president and CEO of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, told WTOP that the scale and scope of the disruptions that the SafeTrack program will cause aren’t sinking in with commuters. This program, he says, is a different animal.

“We’re not saying this is Armageddon,” Dinegar said on WTOP Wednesday morning. “But we are not saying this is just another day dealing with the inconveniences of Metro. This is a very big disruption. And people need to know about what’s coming and plan for it.”

Based on his observations and conversations with the business community, Dinegar said that Metro has done a “very good job of getting the word out” about the disruptions, which begin on Saturday. But people aren’t paying enough attention.

“People aren’t ready, that they haven’t really figured out what the deal is going to be overall, and they have not created their plan or put things into motion.”

Dinegar said that the seemingly constant reports of single tracking and other delays have left commuters numb to the idea that this won’t be just another Metro inconvenience.

“It will be substantially disrupted.”

Another factor, he said, could be that the original draft of the SafeTrack plan had called for work to start at the eastern end of the Blue Line, which Dinegar said wouldn’t have been as much of a headache for commuters.

Now, however, the work will begin with 13 days (June 4 to 16) of continuous single tracking between Ballston and East Falls Church on the Orange and Silver lines with trains running only every 18 minutes, “which will stuff the trains,” Dinegar said.

He said the Board of Trade has sent a preparedness plan to area businesses, and on Wednesday the board’s task force on the Metro program was set to meet for the third time. The Board of Trade is working with the Washington Business Journal to put out a supplement with a guide to resources such as carpools and ride- and car-sharing services.

Dinegar added that the board has composed a survey for employers to send to workers asking where they live, what Metro line they take and their commuting routines. They’re also asking employers to work “on a case-by-case basis (with) their employees who are going to need some workarounds.”

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Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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