Washington subway to face partial shutdowns in repair surge: report

Reuters News
Posted: May 05, 2016 2:00 PM

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Washington's troubled Metro subway system, the second-busiest in the United States, will carry out months of extensive track work that will include partial shutdowns, a radio station reported on Thursday.

News of the work comes just days after a federal report into a deadly 2015 tunnel fire that exposed widespread safety lapses.

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld will announce the program on Friday, WAMU 88.5 radio reported, citing anonymous transit authority officials.

The work is likely to cause widespread commuting hassles for Washington area residents, including hundreds of thousands of federal employees. It also could snarl travel plans for the 20 million people who visit the U.S. capital every year.

The work on the 40-year-old system may begin as early as June. A spokesman for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which is commonly known as Metro, had no immediate comment on the report.

The program calls for sections of track covering two or three stations at a time of Metro's 91 stations to undergo single-tracking or closures during the work week, WAMU said.

The work will range from replacing wooden rail ties, fasteners, switches, and electrical cables to making safety improvements identified by federal oversight officials, the sources told WAMU.

In a memo obtained by WAMU, Wiedefeld told the Metro board on Wednesday that the current level of 33 hours of maintenance a week on the two-track system was insufficient.

The report comes six weeks after the unprecedented one-day shutdown of Metro for emergency safety inspections. Metro carries about 700,000 passengers on weekdays in serving Washington and its Virginia and Maryland suburbs.

Jack Evans, the chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the subway's parent, warned in March of maintenance shutdowns that could last months and called for another $25 billion in funding over the next decade to keep the system running.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson, editing by G Crosse and Alistair Bell)