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Metro single-tracking Wednesday

Metro stored an unprecedented number of rail cars in underground tunnels on Tuesday night as the blizzard was hitting the Washington area to minimize the labor-intensive job of digging them out from rail yards, a Metro official said Wednesday.

As a result, many underground trains are operating only on single tracks Wednesday because the other tracks are packed with rail cars, said Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein. The trains continue to run on roughly 24- to 30-minute intervals, she said.

"We are providing underground service on a single track because the other track is filled with trains," she said. "Digging out rail yards is extremely time-consuming, it takes a combination of plow, shovel, and tow trucks, so we decided to get as many cars underground as possible," she said.

Metro employees are reaching the point of exhaustion after days of battling snow and ice to keep service running. "We are seeing extreme fatigue in the staff. They have been dealing with snow for a solid week," Farbstein said. "People are working shifts but they are physically and mentally exhausted."

Today's wind isn't helping. "It may not be worthwhile trying to clear stuff with 40-mile-per-hour winds," she said.

By Michael Bolden  |  February 10, 2010; 11:15 AM ET
Categories:  Advisories , transit  | Tags: Metro, Metro delays, weather  
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Aren't there some significant segments of tunnel where many trains could be stored on both tracks that are not in use, such as north of Grosvener and somewhat past White Flint (Red Line) and some stretches of the Green Line beyond Fort Totten, possibly the Blue line beyond Rosslyn and heading toward the Pentagon (intermediate station is open to the elements)? Would this possibly provide enough capacity to "empty the yards" and still allow double track operation on underground segments that are in operation, which would seem a safer mode of operation. The last thing we need in these stressed times is another incident in Metro tunnels or stations....

Posted by: ClevelandParkResident | February 10, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

I don't think Metro wants to pin its cars into the tunnels by putting them on both tracks where they will be snowed in on both ends. They need to keep one track clear so they can plow it and use it to get employees to where they need to be (forget about driving them on the roads...). Then they can work on plowing out those trains from both ends.

When Metro makes the call to go underground, they don't have time to reposition trains across the system. They have enough time to move the trains to the nearest tunnel at thats it. They were doing quite a bit of that yesterday about 6:45 I "just missed" an Orange Line at Ballston, and sat there for the full 20 minutes until the next train. I saw 6 "empty train" movements in those 20 minutes, and metro was already single tracking between Ballston and Clarendon where they had those trains stored.

Remember that Metro is only operating on 30 minute headways. On some lines, like the Yellow, and the Glenmont/Forest Glen segment of the Red, they can get away with just one train going back and forth on a single track. Nothing unsafe about that. The remainder of the lines can be operated with 2 trains. The train operators know that there is a designated point where the trains will pass each other (there will be a short stretch with 2 tracks open). The Red line was having trains pass each other at Metro Center. In half an hour, that was enough time to make the run from Metro Center up to Medical Center and back, while the other train went to Union Station, laid over for about 20 minutes there, and then back to Metro Center. Again, nothing inherently unsafe about that.

Posted by: thetan | February 10, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Let all Metro employees know that they are in my heart and my prayers, and that I appreciate their efforts. I am sure that many of my fellow DC-area citizens feel the same way. This week of unbelievable weather has highlighted the critical role Metro transit plays in our region.

Posted by: --sg | February 10, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

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