Officials of Metro and the Washington area's fire departments have agreed to make improvements in equipment and procedures in the subway system in an effort to reduce hazards to riders and firefighters.
One proposed installation would be special subway tunnel radio system, designed to permit firefighters to maintain direct contact underground with their own units, rather than relying upon Metro's internal telephone system.
Richard S. Page, Metro general manager, said the radio system would cost between $300,000 and $1 million, depending upon how extensive an installation ultimately is decided upon. He said no source of funds to install a system is in sight.
Page reviewed the increased fire protection plans in a memo to the Metro board after The Washington Post reported that Washington's subway system contains many of the same fire hazards revealed during the investigation of a fatal fire last January in San Franciso's Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART).
However, Page insisted that Metro was and is safer than BART, and that his announcement of proposed improvements should not be interpreted as conceding that Metro is hazardous.
In a related development, it was disclosed that Page met this week with D.C. Fire Chief Jefferson W. Lewis and agreed on the steps to improve Metro safety. Never before had a Metro general manager and a D.C. fire chief held such a face-to-face meeting.
Among planned improvements listed by Page were a special telephone system in the Blue Line's Potomac River tunnel and reconstruction of a fire wall between tracks there, better markings of emergency exits and other emergency equipment in trains and tunnels, emergency telephones on station platforms, an automatic evacuation announcement system in stations and better training and inspection procedures.
At present, the only part of the rail system with a tunnel radio system is the river tube. It was installed by Arlington County.
Before yesterday's open meeting of the Metro board, its members met as a committee in a closed session, in which they discussed and rejected the latest proposal by the U.S. Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA) for a Metro financing plan.
UMTA said its plan would use a available funds to complete construction of 73 miles, while Metro prefers its own proposal to spend much of the money on preliminary work leading toward completion of a 101-mile system.
Metro director Cleatus E. Barnett, of Montgomery County, said the board members decided to "advise UMTA that its proposal does not conform to fiscal and political realities" in the Washington region.
On another matter, the Metro board approved a plan for the south entrance to the Friendship Heights subway station, Wisconsin Avenue near Jennifer Street NW, that will use elevators instead of escalators as are used at other stations. The design is intended to permit continued use of a Metro bus garage at that location. CAPTION: Picture, RICHARD PAGE . . . defends fire safety