A similar issue occurred near Gallery Place two weeks ago, when stray electricity overheated another bolt and caused those tracks to be pulled out of service.
“The two incidents involved 40-year-old fasteners that, while in great condition for holding the rail, below the surface the rubber components had degraded,” Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said Wednesday.
That’s one of the problems that Metro intends to focus on in coming months, when a post-SafeTrack preventive maintenance program kicks into gear. (Metro riders may recall that that program is the reason why Metro battled to get rid of late-night service.
Part of the agency’s plan is to conduct stray current testing, a process by which Metro workers cut power to the rails, disconnect pieces of rail from the rest of the system, and test to see whether running electricity through a segment of track causes any “leaks” that could result in a full-blown fire once a train barrels through.
That program is scheduled to start in July.
Riders also complained about the lack of information from Metro about what was happening — a frequent complaint for customers. Riders were more frustrated with the communication from Metro’s rail information Twitter account @Metrorailinfo. Though the first update related to the arcing stud bolt came quickly after the defect was reported — at 4:48 p.m. — it was an hour before Metro tweeted that riders should consider alternatives, suggesting the delays would be significant.
Stessel said staff decided it made more sense to continue single-tracking through the peak period, in order to help flush out the crowds that were already building in stations throughout downtown D.C. as the system reached the height of rush hour. Then, once the crowds died down, workers could cut power to that section of the tracks, fix the problem, and get both sides back up and running.
But riders argued that Metro was slow to articulate the depth of the problem, that single-tracking would continue for several hours, and that the delays would be dramatic. If Metro had mentioned that the delays were due to a report of “arcing” on the track rather than the generic “track problem” phrase, they said, savvy customers would have known enough to avoid the rail system altogether.
Some riders compared that with the suggestions put out by other Twitter accounts that follow Metro goings-on, listen to Metro’s dispatcher scanner traffic and disseminate their own advice.
Other riders, riders frustrated by the one-two punch of interminable delays and vague tweets, lit into Metro.
Just after 7 p.m., Metro tweeted that trains were no longer single-tracking but delays continued.
The one bright spot in the mayhem? A train operator who received multiple shout-outs from the #WMATA Twittersphere.