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Could Take Decades

Broken Promises - Bad Dreams, A Metro Investigation (Fourth in a series)

WMATA’s quest to get “Back2Good” runs into many problems

Metro entranceWASHINGTON, D.C. – Although the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) SafeTrack program concluded months ago, riders on the rail system continue to deal with closures and single-tracking – strategies the Metro system may be employing for some time.

Just weeks after the conclusion of the WMATA SafeTrack program, maintenance workers were back on the tracks addressing issues, and even after months of accelerated work with thousands of repairs and replacements made to the tracks, grout pads and tie downs of the rail system, stations continue to close and safety incidents are still occurring.

Eric Randall, a principal transportation engineer with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, said work and issues like those WMATA has faced are not unusual for metropolitan rail systems, but for a system with a backlog like Metro’s, it could take decades to get back on track.

“We are catching up on a backlog. It is going to take a few years, a handful of years or more maybe, to work and get through to get back to a state of good repair and keep following a fairly aggressive schedule, but Metro is never going to be new again,” Randall said. “We’re never going to get back to a whole brand new system, so yes, there’s always going to be a more aggressive maintenance schedule.”

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MoCo sees slight dip in number of homeless residents

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Homelessness in Montgomery County decreased by 9 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to an annual survey conducted by Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

According to the survey, which was a one-night snapshot of the homeless population on Jan. 25 of this year, there were 894 homeless people in the County, as compared to 981 in 2016 and 1,100 in 2015.

The 894 people included 86 families and 172 children, according to the survey.

The survey, in its 17th year, tallied the homeless population in nine jurisdictions in the Washington, D.C. area. Overall, there were 11,128 homeless individuals in the nine jurisdictions, according to the survey which was released last week.

Amanda Harris, Montgomery County’s chief of special needs housing in its Department of Health and Human Services, called the numbers in the survey “typical,” although the survey noted that day was unseasonably warm.

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"It will have teeth"

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Governor signs bill designed to make Metro a safer place for riders

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Gov. Larry Hogan (R) signed a bill to create a new Metro Safety Commission last week, bringing Maryland, D.C. and Virginia closer to their goal of creating a state-level safety oversight body for Metro.

Del. Kumar Barve (D-17), Maryland House Transportation and Environment Committee chairperson, said one of the hardest parts of passing the legislation, which was signed March 30, was for the three jurisdictions to work together.

“Having three cooks in the kitchen is daunting even when the three of them agree,” Barve said.

Chuck Bean, executive director of Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, said the new commission, if the Federal Transit Administration approves the bill, would have more power than the previous safety oversight group, the Tri-State Oversight Commission.

“The creation of the Metro Safety Commission is important because it will have regulatory oversight of safety matters for Metro, meaning it will have teeth and the power to impose fines or suspend service, and that’s something we’ve not had before,” Bean said Friday.

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More inspections planned after 911 failure

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Sprint Wireless leaders said they will put new measures in place to prevent another outage that prevented customers last month from dialing 911 on their mobile phones.

Brian Hedlund, a Sprint Wireless representative Brian Hedlund, told the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) said last week a defective part prevented Sprint Wireless from sustaining wire line service during a PEPCO power outage Aug. 16.

Hedlund said Sprint had “redundancy,” or alternate power sources, in case there was a power failure. He said such an incident is unlikely to occur but Sprint needs to be ready in case it does.

“This particular switch failure was a very unusual circumstance,” Hedlund said.

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Government demands Sprint explain 911 outage

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A Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments committee called Sprint representatives to meet with them next week to explain why Sprint customers couldn’t dial 911 Aug. 16 and to explain their plans to prevent that from happening again.

Montgomery County Council member Roger Berliner (D-1), who chairs the Council of Governments, said he believes the COG ongoing 911 directors committee is the best group to schedule an investigation of the Sprint incident and review it. 

“COG is the natural forum for it,” said Berliner, who had yet to select an exact date for the meeting as of Wednesday.

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Metro cell service far off

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WASHINGTON – Riders will have to wait at least five years to receive cell phone service on Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority trains, according to an underground communication study conducted on Metrorail unveiled Oct. 22.

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