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A close call for Metro track workers

Michael Bolden

[This post has been updated]

A Metro work crew experienced a close call on Sept. 20 on the Yellow and Blue Lines near Braddock Road, according to Metro spokesman Reggie Woodruff.

The news was first reported by WTOP.

A track crew was conducting circuit testing near Braddock Road and "there was a communications issue that caused a train to be routed onto a track that the workers were not aware of," Woodruff said.

Metro characterized the incident as a "near miss," although "the workers were never in harm's way," he said.

"The workers were never in harm's way, however, we still categorized it as a 'near miss,' consistent with a true system safety approach, because the potential for injury existed," Woodruff said in an e-mail.

Metro said no one was injured in the incident, which was reported to the Tri-State Oversight Committee (TOC), which monitors safety at Metro.

At the time of the incident, trains were being allowed to travel on the track where work was being performed -- the outbound track between King Street and Potomac Yard -- but at a slower speed and only in one direction, Woodruff said in an e-mail.

However, a train became disabled on the adjacent inbound track, requiring trains to single-track on the outbound track which was part of the work zone area. "Since only one track was now available, trains were routed over switches to allow them to travel in both directions, through the area of the disabled train. This area included a part of the original work zone," Woodruff said.

The work crew had not yet entered that portion of track, and so were not in harm's way, but injuries could have occurred, he said. The crew was not informed about the changes in train movements and that was a safety violation, an investigation by Metro's rail and safety departments found.

Matt Bassett, chair of the TOC, said a lookout noticed that trains were coming, but Metro's Operations Control Center never notified the workers of the change in routing as required as part of safety protocol.

Since the 2009 crash on the Red Line, four workers have been killed on the tracks. Two track workers were killed by a service vehicle near Rockville Station in January; a worker was killed by a train in September 2009 between Braddock Road and Reagan National Airport stations; and a worker died in August 2009 after being struck by a gravel-spreading machine on the Orange Line.

A team of independent safety inspectors was nearly hit in December near Alexandria's Braddock Road Station and "were forced to quickly scramble out of the way to avoid being struck," according to a report released earlier this year by the Tri-State Oversight Committee. No one was injured in that incident.

-- Ann Scott Tyson

This story is developing. Check back for details.

From the Post's archives:

Metro train nearly hits safety inspectors

Metro agrees to live monitors on tracks

NTSB investigates accident that killed two track workers

Metro orders safety training after worker is killed

Graphic: Metro workplace fatalities

By Michael Bolden  | October 27, 2010; 11:24 AM ET
Categories:  Ann Scott Tyson, Metro, MetroAccess, Metrobus  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Metro plans for Sunday marathon
Next: Being seen on Halloween


The incident was a "near miss", and "injuries could have occurred", but the workers "were never in harm's way"? Time for WMATA to send out an oxymoron alert.

Posted by: nan_lynn | October 27, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

If you nearly missed something, you hit it ergo a near miss is a hit.

Unless you are in the Navy.

Posted by: damnit79 | October 27, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

The Chief of MetroRail Operations is still employed, why?

Posted by: ceebee2 | October 27, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Any time you include WMATA and safety in the same sentence you've got an oxymoron...

Every time I read a news article about what Metro can't seem to fix and every time I hear their little announcements over the station speakers thanking us for our "patience" while waiting out yet another delay for some inane reason, I can't help but wonder why Metro just doesn't come out and admit that they suck.

"We apologize for the inconvenience because we suck" would actually go a lot further at this point in restoring some faith that the culture is changing because maybe it's like rehab: The first step Metro needs to take is admitting that they are grossly incompetent.

Until they do that, nothing will change in that culture.

Posted by: mika_england | October 27, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Why were the workers not aware of the track?

Posted by: getjiggly1 | October 27, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

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