Weekend Station Repairs Will Slow Metro Service

By Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 17, 2008

Metro riders who plan to take Red, Orange or Blue line trains this weekend, take note, especially if traveling downtown. Wizards, Hoyas and Caps fans, pay special attention. (And parents who plan to take the kids to see Disney on Ice during Presidents' Day weekend next month, this applies to you as well.)

There will be delays of at least 30 minutes on those subway lines this weekend and Presidents' Day weekend because Metro will be doing major platform repairs at the Metro Center Station. This weekend's delays will begin tomorrow after 10 p.m. and last through midnight Monday. Service on the Green and Yellow lines should not be affected.

Metro Center, a major transfer hub, will remain open. But trains on the Red Line and the Blue and Orange lines will share a track between stations in the busy downtown core. That means significant delays for people traveling between Dupont Circle and Judiciary Square on the Red Line and between Farragut West and Smithsonian on the Blue and Orange lines. To help compensate, officials will run six- or eight-car trains on the affected lines.

Verizon Center is hosting four sports events Saturday and Monday, some of them likely to be sold out, that will draw tens of thousands of fans, many of whom will take Metro. Verizon Center is at the Gallery Place-Chinatown Station on the Red Line, one stop east of Metro Center.

The Georgetown Hoyas play basketball Saturday afternoon and Monday night. The Washington Capitals have a hockey game Saturday night, and the Washington Wizards play basketball Monday afternoon. (Tomorrow night's Wizards game is expected to end before the repairs begin.)

Officials said the delays will not be reflected on the agency's popular Trip Planner on its Web site. Although Metro plans to have extra trains on standby after Verizon Center events, customers should expect to wait longer than usual for trains.

"They should bring a good book, and patience, while riding the rail system this weekend," Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said.

The repairs are part of the agency's ongoing maintenance and were scheduled about a year ago, said Dave Couch, who oversees capital projects. Because of the time and logistics involved, Metro cannot do the work during the few hours when the system is closed, Metro officials said. They scheduled the work for several weekends and chose to inconvenience riders over two three-day weekends (Monday is the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday) rather than over four regular ones, Couch said.

Workers will repair the sagging Red Line platforms at Metro Center. Supporting the platforms on either side are concrete beams that stretch over the Blue and Orange line tracks on the lower level. Over time, rubber pads, known as bearing pads, that sit between the concrete beam and another concrete support, somewhat like pieces of ham in a sandwich, have deteriorated.

As the pads have worn down, sags have developed in stretches of the platform. The deterioration has resulted in more concrete-to-concrete contact as millions of passengers walk on the platform. Metro Center, one of the first Metro stations, opened in 1976. More than 610 million people have traveled through the station since then, officials said.

"This is not an imminent structural problem, but we don't want it to continue," Couch said.

The $1.3 million project is being funded out of Metro's capital budget. The recent fare and fee increases help cover Metro's operating costs.

To replace the bearing pads, each about 5 feet by about 2 feet by 3/4 of an inch, workers will use hydraulic jacks capable of lifting 100 tons to raise the concrete beam several inches, remove the worn out pads and put in new ones. They have to replace four pads, and replacing each will take about seven hours, Metro engineers said.

Because Metro has only two tracks, Blue and Orange line trains have to share a track to allow workers to use the other track to perform the repairs on the Red Line above. Red Line trains have to share a track because the platform being worked on will not be level or safe for customers to stand on.

This weekend, workers will complete repairs on one side of the Red Line. They will work on the other side of the Red Line during Presidents' Day weekend.

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