After debris falls again at Red Line station, Metro GM hauls in outside inspectors

WASHINGTON — After more pieces of the Rhode Island Avenue Metro Station fell Thursday afternoon, the station was shut down at least through Friday night for independent inspections.

It is just the latest instance of Metro using outside consultants in an attempt to get a true picture of where the system stands, since Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld has said he is not sure he can trust years of Metro’s maintenance and inspection work and documentation.

These inspectors are looking into the structural integrity and any other issues at Rhode Island Avenue, where a metal bracket fell from rusted-out bolts Wednesday night. Metro said in a statement that the incident appeared to be unrelated to the concrete that fell Thursday, and there was no immediate indication that issues are “related to any structural deficiencies.”

The third-party examination is meant to ensure there is no further risk to riders at the elevated station. Red Line trains are continuing to run through the station, but they are not stopping.

Wiedefeld has hired outside experts in a number of areas to figure out where Metro maintenance and safety work really stands and to boost training for workers, such as track inspectors.

Separate projects aim to rebuild the list of Metro’s track problems from scratch and to outline all the repairs needed now and in coming years across the rail and bus system. That could inform future iterations of Metro’s 24/7 track work, that is already in a holding pattern due to new safety directives and findings that track inspectors and maintenance groups have not always done their jobs.

The Metro inspection policies that the Federal Transit Administration and Metro’s new chief safety officer said had been ignored for years were listed in a 2011 safety management plan just above the statement that station managers regularly check their stations for any problems and report those issues for repairs.

In addition to regular checks by station managers, Metro policies call for an annual inspection of each station that includes tests of the concrete.

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