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Dr. Gridlock
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Posted at 03:44 PM ET, 11/30/2011

Metro unveils new and rehabbed escalators

For Metro, this is news: 10 working escalators.

And all on the same day.

Those weren’t the only ones working in the system — a status report said that 530 of a total 588 were in service — but Metro was showing off seven escalators that had been rehabilitated at Union Station and three new ones that were all finally in place at Foggy Bottom.

The new equipment is part of the agency’s effort to replace or overhaul 153 escalators at 25 stations over the next few years.

The new escalators at Foggy Bottom, along with a new staircase which will be installed early next year, are part of a $5.9 million project. The old units had become “unsustainable and unreliable” and the work to replace them started in late January, according to Metro officials. A new canopy will be installed over the escalator and staircase entrance in early 2012.

The new escalators at Foggy Bottom are a big deal to Metro because they are the first replacement escalators in the transit system in 15 years, according transit officials. The new escalators at Foggy Bottom are made by Switzerland-based Schindler Group, one of the largest manufacturers of escalators and elevators in the world.

At Union Station, Metro showed off seven rehabbed escalators on Wednesday. It spent $2.2 million repairing those over the last year and a half.

As part of the work, Metro said it removed, refurbished or replaced “all escalator parts, including steps, handrails, safety devices and electrical systems.”

Richard Sarles, Metro’s general manager, held a ribbon-cutting at each stop.

At Union Station, as he stood at the top of a bank of rehabilitated escalators near the MARC train entrance, Sarles gamely worked his way through a statement noting “this milestone in the rebuilding effort,” though his microphone was malfunctioning and few of the riders passing by could hear him.

A moment later, as he and other officials cut a ceremonial red ribbon, he cut slowly with what appeared to be a dull set of scissors.

“At least the escalators work,” he said.

At Foggy Bottom, Metro officials passed out candy canes with cards stapled to them that read, “Thanks for your patience while we escalated your ride.”

Metro’s escalators and elevators experience chronic breakdowns. With 588 escalators, Metro has more than any other transit system in the country.

But many of its escalators are old and have not been properly maintained. Plus, finding parts can be difficult because four out of seven manufacturers have gone out of business.

In February, Metro plans to shut down the south entrance escalators at Dupont Circle as it rips out all three escalators there and replaces them with new ones.

Officials had expected the work to take a year but now say they hope to complete it in 10 months. Metro is building a spiral staircase in an existing ventilation shaft now to expand ways of exiting the station during an emergency.

Metro also plans to replace the often-broken escalators at the Bethesda station but that work won’t start until 2014.

Riders of the new escalator at Foggy Bottom said they enjoyed seeing three, working escalators at the busy station.

“It was an excellent ride,” said Helen Hamilton of Alexandria, as she got off and headed to a nearby doctor’s appointment. “It’s much better than the old ones. It feels much more sustainable, not as cranky as the others.”

Erin Mick, 24 of Arlington, said having another escalator was “great.”

“You can get up the stairs a lot quicker now,” the George Washington University student said.

The big question many riders had: How long will the new and rehabbed escalators stay operational?

In a statement, Metro said it “anticipates that the “like-new” escalators at Union Station will last another 15 to 20 years.

The ones at Foggy Bottom are expected to last 20 to 30 years.

Follow me on Twitter @postmetrogirl.

By and  |  03:44 PM ET, 11/30/2011

 
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