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New Approach on Metro Track Work

Metro managers are hoping to better organize track work, so they can limit the delays that frustrate riders traveling at off-peak times and on weekends. It's a promising approach, as the transit authority is planning many years of major rehabilitation work on all the lines.

track%20work.jpg Weekend work shut a track at Mount Vernon Square. (Thomson)

But Metro board members, listening to a staff presentation of the plan today, were rightly cautious about fully committing to it until they get more details about the impact on travel.

The problem: The transit authority now presides over 60 rehabilitation contracts, all in the $5 to $15 million range. All the jobs compete for a narrow window of work time at various points along the lines. They can't get all their work done while the rail system is closed. The delays caused by single-tracking around work zones drive riders nuts.

The proposed fix: Metro managers Dave Couch and Dave Kubicek said they can cluster future contracts, concentrating them along segments of the lines. Tackle one segment at a time, doing evening and overnight work in such a way as to minimize train delays. Then move on to the next segment, with the same goal.

After the evening rush and on weekends, the managers said, one of the two tracks could be shut down for work without disrupting the train schedule in many areas, since the trains are scheduled to operate much less frequently anyway at those times. Also, clustering the work in specific segments would give the workers greater access to a defined area, getting the job done faster.

The schedule: The managers want to start this reorganized rehab program on the Red Line, letting a first contract for work between Dupont Circle and Silver Spring, then Dupont to Grosvenor, then out to Shady Grove and out to Glenmont. They'd be starting with the oldest portions of the rail system and working out from there. The Blue and Orange Lines would follow, then the Yellow and Green. The whole process would take about seven years.

Board member Peter Benjamin, who heard from a lot of Red Line riders in Maryland about the seemingly constant work zone disruptions early this year and late last year, noted that many riders were delayed for at least half an hour. Because Metro would turn around trains after they passed through the core stations, riders heading for the outer stations would have to get off and wait for another train to reach their destinations.

So Benjamin and others on the board want more details about how trains will be staged through the work zones under the new plan, though Benjamin said he really liked the managers' approach of integrating the work to minimize disruptions.

By Robert Thomson  |  July 24, 2008; 11:29 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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