Page 2 of 2   <      

Metro to Shut Stations for Weekend Track Work

Metro has limited options when it comes to scheduling track maintenance. The weekend work is an inevitable result of increasing ridership and expanded service hours, officials said. On a typical weekday, Metro is running 1,538 trains over 206 miles of track. April's average weekday daily ridership was 739,525.

Over the years, Metro has lengthened its hours. It now operates from 5 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday. On Fridays and Saturdays, the trains run until 3 a.m.

That means that on a typical weekday, crews have "a narrow window" of 2 1/2 to three hours to perform labor-intensive chores, Feil said. Using only those time periods, excising a stretch of old rail, hoisting it off the track bed and replacing it with new steel could take 18 days to complete. Setup work takes time. Crews also have to be finished and out of the way by 4 a.m. so the system can open at 5 a.m.

Metro's design also limits the maintenance schedule. Unlike the New York subway, which has up to six tracks at some stations and can perform maintenance on two tracks while running service on others, Metro has only two tracks.

"We're doing some sort of maintenance all the time," Feil said, which often means one track is shut down.

To speed up maintenance, Metro plans to complete about a half-dozen intensive, round-the-clock operations before year's end, the most in recent history, Feil said. He is working on a schedule for specific locations and dates, he said. The Post plans to publish that information when it becomes available.

Such major rehabilitation projects tend to be scheduled for summer and fall. Track work becomes more difficult in the winter because the ground is hard. Last year, Metro shut down service for four weekends in July and August -- twice each on the Red and Orange lines -- for repair work on aerial structures.

This year, the first round-the-clock operation is scheduled for June 2-4 at the Stadium-Armory Station, while the Washington Nationals play out of town. The station will remain open during the track work, but both tracks will be closed. Free shuttle buses will ferry passengers between Stadium-Armory and Minnesota Avenue on the Orange Line and Benning Road on the Blue Line.

"We'll go out Friday night at 10 p.m., rip out the bad portion of the track and be back in service by Monday rush," Feil said. "We'll impact that location one time, and then you're done."

<       2

© 2006 The Washington Post Company