Farragut North reopens after concrete falls through roof

By Ann Scott Tyson and Clarence Williams
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, November 18, 2010; 5:43 AM

Authorities reopened Farragut North Metro station Thursday morning after closing it Wednesday when concrete fell through a ceiling tile in the roof of the underground tunnel.

One of the concrete chunks--apparently dislodged as a result of construction work on Connecticut Avenue NW, above the station--was as big as a human head, said Pete Piringer, a D.C. fire department spokesman. No injuries were reported.

The incident happened between 3 and 4 p.m., said Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein. Metro workers roped off the area where the pieces of concrete fell, and restricted the size of trains allowed to stop at the station.

"D.C. crews were working up above [on the street], and they penetrated the station," said Metro Assistant General Manager Dave Kubicek.

D.C. Fire and Emergency Services inspectors were called to the scene about 5:30 p.m. to help Metro workers check the structural integrity of the tunnel, Piringer said. At about 8 p.m., the station was closed for a more thorough inspection of the strength of the ceiling, which was expected to continue through much of the night. Trains continued to pass through the station, however.

Piringer said a preliminary investigation indicated that concrete used to plug a relief valve in the ceiling had dislodged and created a field of debris about 20 feet in diameter on the platform.

This week, city transportation crews using heavy equipment began installing a raised median on Connecticut Avenue between K and L streets to provide a "safe haven" for pedestrians crossing a long intersection, said Karyn LeBlanc, a spokeswoman for the D.C. transportation department.

Officials were investigating whether schematic plans from Metro and District Department of Transportation may have indicated that there was more distance between the street and the station's underground roof than there actually was, LeBlanc said.

"We are very fortunate no one was hurt, and we just want to be cautious that there is no other damage," LeBlanc said. "We're continuing to look at the road work above to make sure we won't have a similar instance."

The incident was just Metro's latest problem. Last week, inspections of Metro's escalators uncovered scores of brakes that need to be replaced or have oil-contaminated brake pads. In October, an escalator accident injured six people at the L'Enfant Plaza Station.

tysona@washpost.com williamsc@washpost.com

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