Metro is testing a way to waterproof a group of Red Line stations, but the pilot requires single-tracking on weeknights and station shutdowns on weekends for the next four weeks.
Metro spokesperson Richard Jordan said Metro awarded the waterproofing contract for $4.9 million.
Red Line riders will continue to see single-tracking, which began June 10, Monday through Friday after 9 p.m. for the next three weeks, as well as four consecutive weekend shutdowns starting Saturday so that Metro and its unnamed contractor can make progress on installing the waterproofing.
Metro Board of Directors member Michael Goldman, who represents Montgomery County, said Wiedefeld briefed him prior to announcing the pilot. The pilot was under Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld’s discretion so he didn’t consult the Board for approval.
“As he presented it, we have a major problem there which was a cause of major outages,” Goldman said matter-of-factly. “It’s caused a hell of a lot of delays on the Red Line.”
Free shuttle buses will replace trains between Grosvenor-Strathmore Station and Friendship Heights Station on the following days:
- Saturday, July 15 and Sunday, July 16
- Saturday, July 22 and Sunday, July 23
- Saturday, July 29 and Sunday, July 30
- Saturday, Aug. 5 and Sunday, Aug. 6
Metro officials said the 9-mile section of the Red Line, from Grosvenor-Strathmore Station to Farragut North Station, accounts for more than 75 percent of arcing insulators, in which electricity arcs and sometimes causes smoke, in the system.
‘Arcing insulator’ is a term regular Metro riders have learned to associate with delays. Metro officials as well as the Federal Transit Administration have said water leaking into Metro stations damages the tracks and power equipment, leading to premature need for replacement.
“Water and electricity don’t mix,” said Metro Board member Tom Bulger, who represents D.C. “When they designed that tunnel 40, 50 years ago, they didn’t have the (protective coating)” for it.
Wiedefeld said the 9-mile section of the Red Line has always had problems with water infiltration, though it was designed to leak. Wiedefeld said, following a meeting with the Montgomery County Council, the water comes from the stations being located below the water table without a sufficient waterproof coating.
“Since this tunnel segment was constructed, Metro has fought a battle against Mother Nature, and Mother Nature has always had the upper hand," Wiedefeld said last month.
Red Line riders experienced delays, crowding and inconvenience June 23 after two insulators arced during the morning rush hour.
Metro suspended service in one section of track and single-tracked trains in another. Metro attributed the arcing to water leaking into the system.
Riders said they waited as long as 40 minutes for a train toward the district after Metro temporarily suspended service on a section of the Red Line.
Metro Board of Directors member Michael Goldman, who represents Montgomery County, said Wiedefeld briefed him prior to announcing the pilot. The pilot was under Wiedefeld’s discretion so he didn’t consult the Board for approval.
“As he presented it, we have a major problem there which was a cause of major outages,” Goldman said matter-of-factly. “It’s caused a hell of a lot of delays on the Red line.”
Goldman said Wiedefeld told him the matter needed immediate attention, especially after service disruptions on the Red Line June 23.
Metro officials said the agency is concerned about the crossover near Medical Center Station in particular, which has a history of malfunctions due to water and “muck.” Metro spends millions of dollars a year for workers to remove this muck. In addition, Metro pumps hundreds of thousands of gallons of water from the stations weekly.
This is not the first time Metro expressed concern about “water infiltration” in the Red Line tunnels.
Board member Tom Bulger, who represents D.C., said he was surprised Metro didn’t start a pilot sooner.
“Two years ago there was a discussion of how we could an umbrella or some kind of ceiling on the tunnel,” Bulger said Tuesday. “I don’t know why it’s taken two years to get to a pilot.”
Multiple agencies performed investigations into the water leaking into the tunnels, including the U.S. Geological Service, of the U.S. Department of the Interior, who performed a three-year investigation and published a report in 2004. The National Transportation Safety Board and the FTA provided Metro a list of recommended and mandatory actions, respectively, pertaining to water infiltration following the fatal smoke incident on the Yellow Line near L’Enfant Plaza Station in 2015.