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Dr. Gridlock
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Posted at 02:10 PM ET, 08/24/2011

Getting the D.C. Metro back up to speed

Metro officials said they’ve inspected 106 miles of track, tunnels and aerial structures after Tuesday’s earthquake and have found only minor damage.

Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said more than 300 Metro personnel started inspections of the infrastructure Tuesday after the quake and worked overnight to finish them just before the 5 a.m. Wednesday opening of the system. Some travelers had a long commute home Tuesday as trains ran at 15 miles per hour — down from their potential of up to 60 miles per hour.

The tracks and aerial structures were inspected visually by 40 structural inspectors, 25 structural engineers, 160 track personnel and 85 plant maintenance personnel, he said.

“It was full deployment to inspect the system,” he said.

Test trains ran at normal speed along the tracks before the system opened on Wednesday morning.

“We’ve operated in abundance of caution with safety as our highest priority,” Stessel said. “The system is safe for service. If we had any concerns we wouldn’t be running trains.” 

The minor damage in the system includes “a number of ceiling tiles” that had fallen at stations, he said. An elevator at Cheverly was closed for “structural inspections” before it is put back in service, Stessel said.

One track at New Carrollton station had some “power issues” but they were resolved, Stessel said. A sinkhole at the Deanwood stop affected service on one of the two tracks but was repaired overnight, he said.

Stessel said all of Metro’s parking garages were checked and deemed safe. There was some minor damage to the concrete exteriors of the parking structures at Vienna, Shady Grove and Southern Avenue.

Equipment at Metro’s shops where rail cars and buses are repaired is also being examined, particularly hydraulic lifts that “had trains and buses on them at the time of the earthquake,” Stessel said.

“We’re going back and looking at [rail] yard and support facilities,” Stessel said. “To make sure they’re all right. Our priority was getting the system back on its feet for this morning.”

Stessel said Metro is tracking the cost of the damage but does not yet have an assessment.

Metro’s Web site had 225,000 visitors on Tuesday. Normally, it has 110,000 on a weekday. In the hour after the earthquake, the Web site had 44,000 hits, Stessel said. 

 But some riders had complaints with how fast the agency released information after the quake and what happened on their evening commutes.

Grace Paine Terzian wrote in an e-mail that she “anxiously tried to figure out the whereabouts” of her 20-year-old daughter Tuesday in the hours after the earthquake. Her daughter was travelling downtown from the Vienna Metro station to McPherson Square.

Terzian said she went to the homepage of Metro to “read updates about the service. Nada. Zip.”

She said she believed Metro should have explained on its Web site how the “massive exodus of bodies” from the federal government’s release of its non-essential employees would be handled on the rail system.

“I finally got an alert from Metro at 5:20 pm notifying subscribers that trains were running, but slowly,” she wrote. “Inexcusable! At times of emergency like this, should Metro communications be compelled to do better? It’s a matter of public safety.”

Her daughter arrived safely downtown.

Stessel defended Metro’s communication of the event, pointing out that the agency put out more than 100 tweets and seven press releases post-earthquake throughl 1 a.m. Wednesday.

Follow me on Twitter @postmetrogirl.com .

By  |  02:10 PM ET, 08/24/2011

Categories:  Metro

 
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