10 new or repaired escalators open at Metro’s Union Station, Foggy Bottom

November 30, 2011

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 of 588 were in service — but Metro was showing off seven escalators that had been rehabilitated at Union Station and three new ones that were 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 in the next few years.

The new escalators at Foggy Bottom, along with a new staircase that will be installed early next year, are part of a $5.9 million project that began in January. A new canopy is scheduled to be installed over the escalator and staircase entrance next year.

Metro spent $2.2 million on repairs to the units at Union Station. On Wednesday morning, Metro General Manager Richard Sarles stood at the top of a bank of rehabilitated escalators and gamely worked his way through a statement, saying that it was a “milestone in the rebuilding effort,” although his microphone was malfunctioning and few of the people passing by could hear him.

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

“At least the escalators work,” he said.

Riders are accustomed to Metro’s escalators experiencing chronic breakdowns. Many of them have not been properly maintained. Finding parts also can be difficult because many of the manufacturers have gone out of business.

In February, Metro plans to shut down the south entrance escalators at Dupont Circle because all three escalators there will be replaced with new ones.

Metro also plans to replace the often-broken escalators at the Bethesda station, but that work will not start until 2014.

Riders 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 headed to a doctor’s appointment. “It feels much more sustainable, not as cranky as the others.”

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

Metro said it “anticipates” that the “like-new” escalators at Union Station will last 15 to 20 years. The ones at Foggy Bottom are expected to last 20 to 30 years.

Staff columnist Robert Thomson contributed to this report.

Dana Hedgpeth is the Washington Post’s lead reporter in covering the Metro rail and bus systems in the D.C. region and the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) that runs them.
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