Metro workers almost struck by oncoming train

Correction: An earlier version of this blog misstated the location where two Metrorail employees were almost hit by a train. It was on the Orange Line, not the new Silver Line. This post has been updated.

The group that oversees Metro’s safety said it is looking into two incidents, including one involving a Metro employee almost getting struck by an oncoming train.

Jim Benton, who heads the Tri-State Oversight Committee, is expected to brief Metro’s safety and security committee at its monthly meeting Thursday.

On Feb. 5, two Metro workers who were checking tracks between Vienna and Dunn Loring were almost hit by a passing train that was coming from being tested along the Silver Line, Benton said.

He said the workers “didn’t expect to see” the train and the incident is being classified as a “near miss.” Benton said workers usually have a 15-second warning to get out of the way of an oncoming train but “these workers did not have that time.” It is unclear why and Benton said the incident remains under investigation by Metro. Benton said one of the workers hurt his knee on a wall trying to get out of the way of the oncoming train.

Dan Stessel, a Metro spokesman, said in an e-mail Tuesday that an in-service train had first passed by the workers and followed “proper procedures to sound the horn and slow the train.” But the second test train coming from the Silver Line was “apparently not aware of the presence of track inspectors and did not slow down as required.”

He said Metro is reinforcing safety procedures for track workers and retraining that train operator.

The transit agency has a history of its workers being hit on the tracks.

In 2010, two Metro employees were hit by a piece of track equipment near the Rockville station and in a separate incident, another employee who worked as a communications technician was struck by a train near Reagan Airport and later died.

Benton said his oversight group believed Metro was “taking [the most recent incident] seriously” and doing a “thorough job” as they tried to figure out why it happened and to “prevent it from happening again.”

The other incident Benton’s group is investigating involved a test train that was running Feb. 25 on the Silver Line tracks.

The problem started when the brake on one of the train’s wheels began to lock and a metal flange fell out of place and severed 60 cables that are part of the signal equipment system. The outage caused major rush-hour delays for commuters on the Orange Line.

Dana Hedgpeth is a Post reporter, working the early morning, reporting on traffic, crime and other local issues.
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Mark Berman · March 12, 2013