Sometimes, the phrase “no pain, no gain” may seem appropriate for Metro riders.
Starting Monday, riders should expect to see the east entrance of the Van Ness Metro station at Connecticut Avenue NW closed for the next five months while the transit agency tears out the two existing escalators and replaces them with brand new ones.
The two escalators were installed when the station first opened in 1981 and they’ve become increasingly less reliable over the years, according to Metro. Rehabilitating the escalators isn’t practical or cost effective, Metro officials said.
The Van Ness escalator project is part of a $151 million contract with KONE Corp., a major escalator and elevator manufacturer based in Helsinki, Finland. Under that contract, Metro has said it plans to replace 128 escalators by 2020, including ones at Bethesda, Columbia Heights, Friendship Heights, Georgia Ave-Petworth, Glenmont, Shady Grove and Mt. Vernon Square.
The east entrance of the Van Ness stop must be closed during the escalator construction, Metro officials said, because the agency must “ensure safety while heavy lifting of escalator segments takes place in a tight workspace.” Closing the east entrance and doing both escalators at the same time will allow the agency to finish the project in “half the time with crews working two shifts per day,” according to a press release.
Construction is expected to last until spring 2014. Riders at Van Ness can enter or exit the station using the escalator, elevator or stairs on the west side of Connecticut Avenue.
Last year, Metro put in new escalators at Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle’s south entrance and Pentagon.
Metro officials said recently that they’re measurement of the system’s escalator performance showed “more than nine of every ten escalators were in service during operating hours,” giving itself a 91.9 percent availability score. The agency says that figure reflects more escalators being in service now than at any point in nearly five years.
But many riders disagree with those figures, noting they often must climb escalators that are stopped and turned into stairs because they’re broken or other nearby ones are being repaired.
Metro has more than 500 escalators in its system and more than 200 elevators. Agency officials have said many of the units are the original ones from when the system was built in the 1970s and 1980s and are old and outdated. Often, finding replacement parts for the units is hard because many of the original part manufacturers have gone out of business, Metro said.
On Monday, according to Metro’s Web site, 24 escalators were not working because of “unexpected outages” and another 20 were undergoing routine maintenance. Six elevators had either unexpected outages or were undergoing scheduled maintenance.