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Posted at 12:17 PM ET, 07/11/2011

New escalator debuts at Foggy Bottom Station

[This post has been updated]

Commuters at Foggy Bottom Station were greeted by an unfamiliar sight Monday morning: a shiny, new working escalator, the first in 15 years in the Metro system.

Metro posted the news to its metroopensdoors Twitter account on Sunday evening: “Breaking News: The brand new escalator at Foggy Bottom is now in service. Work now moves to the 2nd escalator.”

That prompted a slew of comments as the news went viral. A few followers tweeted that they would give it a week or maybe a month before it would break.

But Metro’s hoping it won’t.

The transit authority plans to replace all three escalators from the street into the station at Foggy Bottom. Plans also call for the addition of a staircase, and a canopy there to protect it all. The total project is budgeted at $6 million.

Overall, Metro plans to spend $150 million over the next five to six years to do overhauls of 104 escalators.

[More after the jump]

However, don’t expect new escalators throughout the system.

Only nine new escalators are going in as part of the larger program, and this year new escalators will go in only at Foggy Bottom and at the south entrance to Dupont Circle Station.

One of the biggest problems with Metro’s escalators is that they are not standard units, since they were customized for particular stations. Plus, many of the companies that made the machines are now out of business, making it difficult to find replacement parts.

Dan Stessel, a Metro spokesman, said that makes it difficult to “cannibalize parts.” Metro has its own in-house team that maintains and makes replacement parts for escalators.

Metro officials prioritized the locations of its biggest escalator problems, and Foggy Bottom was ranked near the top because it has only one entrance.

The new escalator at Foggy Bottom is “off-the-shelf” and made by Switzerland-based Schindler Group, one of the largest manufacturers of escalators and elevators in the world, Metro said.

How long will the new escalator work?

“They are machines,” Stessel said. “If your shoelaces are untied or it gets jammed with a flip-flop, they’ll stop. I won’t guarantee 100 percent they’ll always work. But they’ll be more reliable than the 30-year-old ones.”

Meanwhile, some parts of the old escalator may live on.

Crews will salvage some usable parts, and the rest “gets stripped down for scrap,” Stessel said.

During Monday’s morning rush hour, a Metro employee stood near the new escalator, pointing it out to riders.

One Foggy Bottom commuter, Ethan Klapper, 21, tweeted that his ride on the new escalator was “Pristine!”

When interviewed during lunch, Klapper, who works as an online producer, said he’s seen the escalators at Foggy Bottom break at least once or twice each week.

“It was very clean. No grime on it and it was a very smooth ride,” Klapper said.

Last summer Metro’s perennial escalator problems prompted General Manager Richard Sarles to bring in Vertical Transportation Excellence to do an audit of the system. The assessment found widespread maintenance problems with the units . In the fall, six people were injured at L’Enfant Plaza when the brakes failed on an escalator at the station. Emergency inspections of Metro’s escalators uncovered dozens of units with brakes that needed to be replaced.

Assistant General Manager Dave Kubicek said last year that s shortage of supervisors and Metro’s failure to adhere to its own performance standards contributed to the problem.

Metro also created a new senior management position to oversee the transit network’s escalators.

From the Post's archives:

Metro to speed escalator overhaul

The ups and downs of Metro

Metro brings in escalator consultant

Down on Metro's escalator problems

The climb to fix Metro's escalators

Metro riders fume over escalator problems

Escalators used by Metro have history of trouble

By  |  12:17 PM ET, 07/11/2011

 
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