Metro officials said yesterday they will change some parts of the fire safety plan for the new Forest Glen station in Silver Spring and the station will open as planned Saturday.
"Not only is the station safe, but I'd encourage people to use it," said Metro General Manager Carmen E. Turner. "We've take every precaution to deal with the uniqueness of the station."
Turner's comments came during a preview for reporters, elected officials and others at the Forest Glen and Wheaton stations in Montgomery County on Metro's Red Line.
Because the Forest Glen station is 200 feet below the surface -- the deepest in Metro's planned 103-mile system -- officials devised an unusual plan for evacuating passengers in the event of a serious fire.
The plan calls for riders to stay in the station until another train comes to rescue them.
Some of 10 fire safety experts interviewed by The Washington Post for an article published yesterday questioned whether parts of the evacuation plan will work. They said many subway passengers will want to leave the station the way they came in rather than wait for another train to carry them to safety.
They also said a rolling steel door that comes down over the station's main exit during a fire could heighten anxiety of passengers by making them believe they are trapped. There is a fire escape door immediately next to the steel door, but as of yesterday it still was unmarked.
The experts also were concerned because Forest Glen's elevators can be used in a fire, which goes against conventional fire safety advice to stay out of elevators during a fire.
During a fire drill Friday, the ventilation system that is supposed to clear smoke from the station and replace it with fresh air was not working properly, and the public address system over which station attendants make announcements to passengers in an emergency was difficult to hear.
Edwin C. Keiser, a Metro deputy manager for construction, said officials are determining whether more signs directing riders to emergency exits are needed. The main escape door also will be marked by Saturday, he said.
The volume of the public address system can be made louder, he said. The ventilation system would have properly cleared the smoke if Metro had been using real smoke at its Friday drill, Keiser said. Real smoke would have tripped detectors that would have set off giant fans, he said.
Metro board Chairman Mary Margaret Whipple of Arlington said, "I hope what people read didn't make them nervous. Metro wouldn't open a station if it wasn't safe."
Neal Potter, the Democratic nominee for Montgomery County executive, reserved judgment. "I'd like to sort of walk through it as a new passenger and see how good the instructions are," he said.
Several officials questioned how experts who have not visited the station could criticize the fire safety plan. Metro and Montgomery fire officials maintain they consulted outside experts while putting together the plan.
"I'd prefer a station not so deep, but given what we've got, it's a good plan," said Montgomery Transportation Director Robert S. McGarry.