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Metro may reduce rail service through fiscal 2019

  • Published in Local

WMATA metro logoWASHINGTON — A Metro Board committee voted to adopt a resolution to continue the schedule of reduced, post-SafeTrack hours of service through fiscal year 2019. 

The Board Safety and Service Delivery Committee voted unanimously at Metro Headquarters Thursday to approve renewing the schedule of rail service in anticipation of year two of the preventive maintenance plan, as scheduled. The plan involves several actions, including inspecting cables and testing rails for a power problem called “stray current,” which contributed to smoke incidents in 2016. Another practice is torqueing, which includes tightening bolts of rail fasteners.

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Fare Game

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Delegate Korman suggests less of a need for fare increases if budget proposals are met

Maryland Flag Metro LogoThe Maryland General Assembly likely will fully fund Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld’s request for the operating budget, reducing the risk of untimely fare increases or service cuts, a local delegate said.

“I haven’t heard any pushback for the operating [budget],” said the delegate, Del. Marc Korman (D-16), who represents Montgomery County, on Tuesday.

Korman said Friday’s news that Gov. Larry Hogan said he supported the idea of a dedicated funding source added to his confidence. Wiedefeld in his 2017 plan requested all three jurisdictions find means to supply money on which Metro can sell debt each year. Wiedefeld left the decision of where to find the dedicated funding up to the jurisdictions.

“We spent a lot of time on it; on Friday, he [Hogan] agreed,” Korman said.

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Metro radio tests not done

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metro logoWASHINGTON — Preliminary findings of the investigation into last week’s Metro derailment show tests of the radio communications system used in the tunnels are not occurring as often as they should because radio shop employees aren’t performing them, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Chairman and General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said Thursday. 

 “It was essentially an antenna problem [in the area of the collision],” WMATA Chief Safety Officer Pat Lavin said Thursday, explaining the source of the difficulties in communication between Metro’s rail operations control center and the train operator during the derailment, which occurred at 6:30 a.m. Jan. 15. “Employees adjusted the antenna after the incident.”

Lavin said investigators discovered both the antenna problem and that fact the testing took place less frequently than it should have.

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Derailed!

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Metro officials continue to investigate Red Line derailment 

metro logoWASHINGTON — Metro has not yet determined the cause of Monday’s Red Line derailment, but they are pleased with improvements to emergency responses made in the wake of the fatal L’Enfant Plaza smoke incident two years ago, WMATA officials said.

“The final cause has not been determined,” said WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld, while noting that a crack or break in the rail may have led to the derailment, which took place at 6:40 a.m. outside Farragut North station on Monday. Metro is also considering whether human error was a contributing factor, he said.

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Weekend shutdowns return to Red Line segment next month

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WMATA metro logoWASHINGTON – Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said Thursday Metro officials chose to continue a program that tests a method to stop leaks along a segment of the Red Line, a problem with a history of causing delays in service.  

Track work, including installation of “curtain grouting” in the tunnels, will lead to disrupted service for Red Line riders five weekends in a row, starting mid-October, Metro officials said Thursday in a news release.

Track work will affect weeknight service as well, as trains will single-track between Medical Center and Grosvenor stations on weekdays starting Oct. 16 at 9 p.m.

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More Than 100 Violations

Metro Investigations (First in a series): Broken Promises - Bad Dreams

Metro managers still struggling with a broken unsafe rail system

Metro entranceWhile the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority claims Metrorail services is getting “Back 2 Good” a four month long investigation by The Sentinel newspapers shows the Metro system is still suffering from a laundry list of ills – including more than 100 safety deficiencies.

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said in June SafeTrack – WMATA’s yearlong effort to rehabili- tate its services was finished and three years worth of repairs were done in just a year. But Federal Transit Administration officials say there is still a list of 109 safety deficiencies that are past due.

“The mindset at the supervisor level and down is they really don’t do nothing unless they're specially directed to do it,” a former management level WMATA employee said. “They could walk right over something that was broke and not fix it because they were not told to do it.”

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Metro officials struggle with falsified reports claims

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metro logoMetro’s Office of Inspector General knew in 2015 that structure inspectors had been falsifying reports, according to an OIG report, but that was not made public until recently when a newspaper acquired the report through a written request.

Months after Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld fired nearly half of the track inspection department for falsifying inspection reports, an old Office of Inspector General report was found to indicate the interim general manager knew structure inspectors falsified reports, too – as early as two years ago.

In a recently released 2015 Metro OIG report, then-Inspector General Helen Lew told interim General Manager Jack Requa and then-Deputy General Manager Rob Troup an investigation revealed inspectors violated Metro protocol when they falsified reports and recycled old photos of problem areas over several years. The investigation also revealed that the maintenance department didn’t repair some of the more serious concerns.

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Metro GM addresses Council concerns

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Council members wonder about Red Line delays, Metro contractor use and "dedicated funding"

Metro repairs 2Passengers await the next train on the Red Line at Bethesda Metro station during SafeTrack last year.   FILE PHOTO  ROCKVILLE -- Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld answered questions from the Montgomery County Council about Red Line service, use of contractors and financial contributions from the jurisdictions on which Metro would be able to sell debt.

County Council President Roger Berliner (D-1) asked when Metro will fix the Red Line in terms of water leaking into stations such as Medical Center and Bethesda. County Council member Tom Hucker (D-5) said some of his constituents have asked why delays occur on the Red Line for problems such as electrical arcing, which can cause smoke, though Metro finished its year-long repair program SafeTrack a few days before.

Red Line service delays occurred during the Friday morning rush hour service.  Metro attributed it to two arcing insulators, which hold the power source third rail above the ground.

Hucker asked Wiedefeld what he would say to riders.

Wiedefeld said track repairs and projects during SafeTrack were different from problems that cause arcing insulators.

“The Red Line is totally different than SafeTrack,” Wiedefeld said.

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Metro safety chief says aging rail fastener led to smoke on Red Line

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WASHINGTON – The Metro chief safety officer at a Board Safety Committee Meeting said smoke incidents near Gallery Place and Metro Center stations in the last two weeks resulted from rail fasteners that are wearing out.

Metro Chief Safety Officer Pat Lavin said a stray electric current arced off a rail fastener, causing smoke near Metro Center Station Thursday morning. Lavin said the arcing occurred because the rubber coating of the aging rail fasteners was wearing thin, exposing the metal of the fastener to the stray current.

“What we’re finding is that the fasteners used at that location are basically starting to get to the end of their useful life,” Lavin said.

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Wet tracks and heavy axles add to more Metro problems

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Metro single-tracked trains between two Yellow Line stations for three hours as workers sealed off a small hole that was spraying water into a tunnel, according to a news release.

Trains single-tracked between L’Enfant Plaza and Pentagon City stations on the Yellow Line after a Metro train operator reported seeing water entering a tunnel near L’Enfant Plaza Station around 11:30 a.m. March 16, according to a news release. At 2:30 p.m., the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority reported workers repaired the tunnel leak and restored the formerly de-energized track to service.

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