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Posted at 06:50 PM ET, 10/25/2011

Bethesda escalator breakdown prompts special meeting of Montgomery transportation committee

[Follow live tweets from the meeting at the end of this post.]

The Montgomery County Council’s transportation committee plans to hold a special meeting tonight  to discuss the often-broken Metro escalators at the Bethesda stop.

Representatives from Metro and the Maryland Transit Administration are slated to appear before the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy & Environment committee.

The committee said in a press release that “all three escalators simultaneously broke down” last Wednesday at the station. Metro pressed shuttle buses into service for riders who were unable to endure the climb, but social media networks buzzed with frustration.

The escalators were also inoperable for part of this morning’s commute due to a power outage at the station.

The transit authority has plans to replace the escalators at the stop but some riders have expressed concern that the project won’t start soon enough. The transit agency expects to tear out the old, balky escalators at the station’s north entrance and put in three new ones. But that work won’t start until 2014.

Metro General Manager Richard Sarles has asked staff to determine if there is any way to accelerate the project.

The transit agency plans to spend more than $150 million during the next five to six years to rehabilitate and replace escalators and elevators. Many of its escalators are old and poorly maintained.

At Bethesda’s station, a transit advocacy group in Montgomery has pushed for a second entrance to be installed there sooner because it worries that there will be hiccups in plans to put in the new escalators.

The new Elm Street entrance, accessed via elevators, would take riders to a Purple Line stop, a state light-rail project that would connect Bethesda, Silver Spring and New Carrollton.

The Action Committee for Transit said long lines could result while those new escalators are being installed if one of the units that remains in service during the work breaks down.

Bethesda is one of the system’s busiest stops, and its escalators have become notorious for not working. In 1998, a Metro rider died of a heart attack after he climbed a stopped 106-foot escalator there during a heat wave.

The meeting is scheduled for 7:30 tonight at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center.

Dana Hedgpeth will be tweeting from the meeting. Follow here tweets below and on Twitter via @postmetrogirl.

By  |  06:50 PM ET, 10/25/2011

Categories:  Metro

 
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