One more time: Dupont Circle, Farragut North chiller fixes delayed again

A fan at the top of Metro’s chiller tower on Connecticut Avenue Northwest. (WTOP/Max Smith)

Long-promised fixes to the cooling system for riders on the platforms at Farragut North and Dupont Circle stations are delayed again.

“Metro apologizes for the unanticipated delays,” the agency said in a statement Thursday.

Metro had most recently said the fixes would be done by mid-August, which would have been the end of this week, after blaming the last round of delays on the need to order more new pipe fittings to accommodate revised designs.

Now, Metro has no target date for the repairs to be finished.

After completing installation of underground pipes between the two stations along Connecticut Avenue Northwest this week — work that has required months of a lane closure on the road — Metro found additional leaks elsewhere in the chiller system.

The chiller system has been broken since at least 2015, leading to several summers with no cooling for riders in the stations, and a temporary fix for summer 2017 and part of the summer of 2018.

The newly identified leaks are in the chiller plant that sits under the middle of Connecticut Avenue near Farragut North.

“Metro crews are on-site now and will work through the night to assess the situation and make repairs,” Metro said. “Because this requires the demolition of a concrete wall, we do not yet know the extent of the problem and are not able to report the impact on the project schedule.”

Crews would then need to repair or replace pipes, and run additional leak tests. The testing alone would take several days. If the repairs do work, there would then be several more days of preparations to turn the system back on.

“Our goal remains to restore chiller service to the stations as soon as possible, including having crews working around the clock if necessary. Metro will update customers when we have confidence in a restoration date,” Metro said.

The chiller system works by circulating cooled water from a cooling tower on top of a nearby building through a chiller plant under Connecticut Avenue, then through pipes in the stations.

As recently as April, Metro believed the permanent fixes would be done in time for the hottest parts of this summer.

Metro made similar projections in 2016, before disclosing in mid-August that additional parts would be needed as part of a last-ditch effort to avoid the massive construction that is underway now along Connecticut Avenue.

Though chiller systems have gone down at times at other stations, the two Red Line stops have prompted some of the most rider complaints due to their heavy use and the number of years Metro has been working on repairs.

“We are as frustrated with the pace of progress as many of our customers, and we will continue to take every opportunity to expedite the repairs. In the meantime, tunnel fans will run at all times to provide air movement in the stations until the chiller service is restored,” Metro said.

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