Metro to Shut Stations for Weekend Track Work

By Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 11, 2006

Metro is planning a series of round-the-clock track maintenance operations starting next month that would shut down service at certain rail stations for an entire weekend as part of an aggressive campaign to keep the nation's second-busiest transit system running safely and smoothly.

The blitz will be more disruptive than the current delays for weekend maintenance that involve the use of only one track. Those occur virtually every weekend.

In the long run, officials hope the shutdowns will reduce hassles for riders, because repairs will be completed in roughly 56 hours instead of in three-hour increments over 18 weekdays, said Steve A. Feil, Metro's chief operating officer for rail.

Between the shutdowns and the single-tracking weekends, the bottom line for Metro riders is not good: Expect delays every weekend through the end of the year.

"I'm here to tell you that almost every weekend from now through September -- barring any major events -- is going to be taken up by track work," Feil said.

Work for the last quarter of the year is still being scheduled, but chances are that 95 percent of the remaining weekends will be booked for rehabilitation as well, based on last year's experience. So far this year, Metro has performed maintenance every weekend, with the exception of the Cherry Blossom events of April 1-2 and 8-9.

Some riders, frustrated because there seems to be no end in sight to weekend track work, have stopped riding.

"I've completely given up on the Metro on weekends (esp. the Red Line) because of the single tracking," one rider wrote this month during an online discussion on . "It's just not worth the hassle. I can walk to my destination faster."

Metro officials are warning customers about major disruptions of Blue and Yellow line service this weekend. Trains will operate only every 20 minutes from 10 p.m. tomorrow through Sunday. All trains will operate with six cars.

Crews are replacing a switch at the Braddock Road Station on the southern end of the Blue and Yellow lines and concrete slabs between Stadium-Armory and Addison Road-Seat Pleasant on the northern end of the Blue Line.

Metro officials know riders are being inconvenienced.

"We are making every effort to minimize the customer delays," Feil said. But the size and complexity of the system requires aggressive maintenance "to stay ahead of the curve," he said. Aside from obvious safety concerns, the work is needed to keep trains running at normal speeds of 59 mph.

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