HILLCREST HEIGHTS – SafeTrack may be officially over, but Metrorail riders in southern Prince George’s County are still adapting their travel habits as the system closes two stations for much of this month.
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has closed the Branch Avenue and Suitland stations from Aug. 5 – 20 for a capital improvement project on the Green Line. The Naylor Road station was also closed over the weekend and will be closed again Aug. 19 and 20. The closures will allow Metro to rebuild the crossover in the area, a portion of the track that trains use to move from one track to the other. Workers will also be replacing crossties and grout pads and performing other station rehabilitation and maintenance work, according to WMATA.
“We are taking advantage of our low ridership in August,” said Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld at a Metro board meeting on July 27. “The work is being conducted in a proactive manner so that, basically, we can get beyond this one and start the next one shortly thereafter.”
Since the conclusion of SafeTrack, Metro has adjusted its hours of operation to give maintenance crews more time on the tracks to conduct preventative maintenance work. This closure is part of the system’s new capital project and maintenance schedule designed to address a backlog of tasks and improve overall safety and reliability of the system.
During the closure, Metro is providing free shuttle buses for customers who have no other means of travel. Still, customers are being urged to allow for extra travel time during the closure.
Rider Tiffany Kerr said she is frustrated by the closure, because riders who already have long commutes are now being forced to spend even longer in transit.
“Usually if people have to leave two hours early, now you have to leave four hours early. It’s taking time out of your day,” she said.
She said she lost her job when Metro conducted similar work in the Franconia station, as the rail closures there last year made her late for work too many times.
Kerr said she feels Metro is not demonstrating enough care for their riders when they close entire stations during the workweek.
“Do them at night. Why do you have to do it on the weekday?” she said. “It’s like they would rather use our time then their time. They can do it better.”
Metro says the complete closures is necessary because rebuilding the crossovers can be done more safely and efficiently when no trains are passing through the area.
The United States Census Bureau headquarters is adjacent to the Suitland Metro station, and employees who typically take the train to work are also impacted by this closure. The agency has put into place additional telework allowances, flexible schedule options and more parking passes to accommodate those workers, according to Vincent Gordon.
“During the maintenance of the Green Line Metro, employees can request a parking pass to park on the Suitland Federal Center (SFC) campus. Normally, employees that take the Metro may only park on the SFC campus a maximum of three times monthly if they receive transit subsidy,” he said. “As well, extended telework is being allowed for telework-ready employees that are affected during the temporary closure of the Suitland metro station. This has allowed individuals who solely rely on mass transit to continue working and has supported the Census Bureau's continuity of operations.”
Metro is planning two more longer-term station closures this fiscal year to rebuild the crossover and replace the grout pads at other locations. According to its website, the closures are timed to coincide with periods of lower ridership. In the fall, Takoma Station near Takoma Park will be closed for 10 commuting days Nov. 25- Dec. 10. Then, from May 12-27, the Huntington and Eisenhower Avenue stations in Virginia will be closed as part of the spring capital project.
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