Democracy Dies in Darkness


Repairs at Rhode Island Avenue station are keeping neighbors up at night

July 30, 2018 at 3:08 PM

The shutdown of Metro’s Rhode Island Avenue station has meant shuttle bus service for Red Line riders — and a lot of noise for neighbors. (Express)

Even on the worst commutes, when your Metro car is steaming and the train keeps inching along, there’s some solace in knowing that eventually, you’ll get out.

There might be a broken escalator — one last flipping of the bird before freedom — but soon you’ll be home and away from Metro.

Unless you’re Sara Robertson, or one of her neighbors on Rhode Island Avenue, for whom there is no escape from Metro these days.

Robertson lives across the street from the Rhode Island Avenue station, which, along with the Brookland station, was shut down July 21 for a 45-day stretch of repairs.

Sara Robertson’s home overlooks the source of her sleepless nights. (Sara Robertson/For Express)

It’s been an ordeal for commuters who have been forced to make multiple transfers to get around a closed section of the Red Line, sometimes doubling the length of their commutes.

Metro, oft-criticized for not working efficiently and letting the system deteriorate, says it’s trying to get the work done as quickly as possible by working around the clock.

If you live across the street, that means the noise is also going on around the clock.

The first night of the work, Robertson said, the jackhammering went on until at least 2:30 a.m.

It went on the whole next day too. At 4:30 a.m. Monday, it was still going on.

That’s when Robertson hit her limit. She recorded a video of the metallic rattling sound disturbing the dark still of the night and tweeted it to Metro: “This is my life for the next 45 days … do noise ordinances not apply to the Metro?!”

Metro didn’t respond.

Robertson, 24, who works as a House staffer, isn’t a Metro hater — or at least she wasn’t. She chose her apartment at Rhode Island Row because she wanted to be right near the station.

“Unfortunately, it’s becoming a regret of mine,” she lamented.

She also isn’t the type who moves to the city and complains about the noise. She knew the District wasn’t going to be as quiet as Wixom, Mich., the former auto manufacturing town of about 13,000 that she left last November.

“But I have to sleep,” she said.

Generally, D.C.’s noise ordinance bars construction without special permission except between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. But Metro, like public utilities, is exempt, a spokesman for the city Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs said.

By last Monday night, the noise seemed to quiet, winding down at about 11 p.m., Robertson said. But it was only a temporary respite.

Metro, in response to an inquiry on Thursday, said it feels bad about keeping Robertson up. But there was a but.

“[T]he most important goal must be to get this project done on the fastest possible timeline because, for every resident who can hear construction activity, there are hundreds of riders who are enduring bus shuttles and longer commutes,” Metro said in a statement.

As of Thursday, demolition was halfway done, but three more days of demolition lay ahead. Metro said it’s trying to do the loudest work, like the jackhammering, during the day, but it can’t guarantee that rains like we had last week won’t force workers to jackhammer through the night to stay on schedule.

“That actually makes me mad to the point where I am shaking,” Robertson said. “It’s not comforting to know that they aren’t defending my right to sleep.”

Let us know what frustrates or confounds you about Metro. Reach us at or @theDCrider.

Read more DC Rider:

DC Rider’s Answer Line: Why your train operator can’t cool your ‘hot car’

For blind Metro riders, it’s about more than minding the gap

On the first weekday of Red Line track work, commuters would ‘rather ride a horse’

Kery Murakami is a reporter focusing on feature stories about those who ride and work in the Metro system. He also serves as an advocate to get the transit system to answer questions and deal with concerns raised by its customers.

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