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Unfinished work from SafeTrack Surge #3 postponed to nights and weekends

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Here’s more proof that the end of SafeTrack won’t mean the end of inconvenient maintenance work on Metro.

Metro officials released their progress report for Surge No. 3 … and unlike in the first two rounds of work, crews fell somewhat short of their goals for the zone between the National Airport and Braddock Road stations.

Though they completed 95 percent of the planned track work and more than 100 percent of the work on the Automatic Train Control system, they only completed 72 percent of their planned work on tasks such as grout pad renewal, drain maintenance, and sign repairs. They completed 89 percent of their planned work on the traction power system.

What happens to the rest of that unfinished work? It will have to take place on nights and weekends, according to Metro’s progress report.

“During the surge, priority was given to addressing potential defects and repairing or replacing critical rail infrastructure that affects train speeds and ride quality,” Metro officials wrote in the report. “Additional regular and preventive maintenance activities were fit in as time permitted. These maintenance activities … will continue to be conducted on a regular basis to keep the infrastructure in a state of good repair.”

It’s a message that has been reiterated by Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld since SafeTrack for months: The 15 safety “surges” won’t solve all of Metro’s problems, and crews will need to continue to perform significant maintenance work outside the scope of SafeTrack.

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One reason for the unfinished business, according to Metro: the heat. Because of the high temperatures, work crews needed to take frequent breaks to stay hydrated and remain focused. That meant the task of replacing cross ties – the short, flat beams that are laid parallel to one another underneath the tracks – took longer than expected.

Still, Metro’s progress report listed data in an effort to make the point that the interruption-free bouts of SafeTrack work are necessary. According to the report, crews replaced more than 1,300 cross ties – a task that would have taken 260 nights to achieve if the section of tracks had not been completely shuttered for seven days.