For SafeTrack Surge No. 12, the Blue Line takes a hia­tus through the end of Fe­bru­ary.

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - BY MAR­TINE POW­ERS mar­tine.pow­ers@wash­post.com

It has been seven weeks since Metro’s last SafeTrack surge, but the hard-earned respite is com­ing to an end: Surge No. 12 launched Satur­day, and North­ern Vir­ginia riders will suf­fer yet again, with an 18-day ser­vice shut­down be­tween Ross­lyn and Pen­tagon sta­tions.

The shut­down means that the Blue Line will dis­ap­pear from the Metro map though Feb. 28. And riders on the Yel­low, Orange and Sil­ver lines will ex­pe­ri­ence the reper­cus­sions, as throngs of dis­placed Blue Line riders crowd onto al­ter­na­tive trains.

Metro Gen­eral Man­ager Paul J. Wiede­feld said Thurs­day he un­der­stands that riders in North­ern Vir­ginia may be ex­as­per­ated with the weeks-long de­tours they have en­dured dur­ing the course of SafeTrack — es­pe­cially when un­planned dis­rup­tions and de­lays still oc­cur on the sys­tem. But he said that Metro is safer now than it was be­fore the start of SafeTrack, even if it is dif­fi­cult for riders to see.

“I can’t mea­sure what we’ve pre­vented by do­ing this work,” Wiede­feld said. “But the re­al­ity is that if we didn’t do it, we’d be in a much worse place.”

Blue Line cus­tomers in Vir­ginia should con­sider al­ter­na­tive travel op­tions.

Blue Line riders who typ­i­cally board at Franconia-Spring­field and Van Dorn Street sta­tions will have ac­cess to only Yel­low Line “Rush Plus” trains, which will run all day and ferry them to the Pen­tagon sta­tion and then over the river and di­rectly to L’En­fant Plaza. But riders should ex­pect crowd­ing on all Yel­low Line trains be­tween Vir­ginia and the Dis­trict.

North­ern Vir­ginia Blue Line riders who com­mute to Ross­lyn or Foggy Bot­tom will have a par­tic­u­larly cir­cuitous route to work. They will need to jump on the Yel­low Line, swap trains at L’En­fant Plaza, and ride the Sil­ver or Orange lines back west to reach their des­ti­na­tion.

About 3,000 daily riders be­gin their trips on the south­ern end of the Blue Line and end in Ross­lyn, Metro of­fi­cials said. Ini­tially, of­fi­cials had con­sid­ered run­ning the usual bar­rage of bus shut­tles be­tween Pen­tagon, Ar­ling­ton Ceme­tery and Ross­lyn sta­tions to mimic the shut­tered por­tion of the Blue Line.

But they later de­cided that di­rect­ing peo­ple to the Yel­low Line was a bet­ter op­tion: Traf­fic in Ross­lyn would slow down the buses, and chang­ing trains in­side of L’En­fant Plaza would be more com­fort­able than wait­ing for buses out in the cold at Pen­tagon.

Reg­u­lar Yel­low Line trains, along with Yel­low Rush Plus trains, will op­er­ate with eight­minute head­ways dur­ing rush hour. Dur­ing off-peak midday and evening hours, there will be 12 minute head­ways be­tween trains.

Trains on the Green Line will run less fre­quently to ac­com­mo­date the ex­tra Yel­low Line trains: Wait times be­tween Green Line trains will in­crease to eight min­utes from six dur­ing rush hour.

Af­ter 9 p.m., all trains will op­er­ate with 20 minute head­ways.

On week­ends, the Yel­low Rush Plus trains will op­er­ate only from Franconia-Spring­field to Rea­gan Na­tional Air­port sta­tions — also with 20-minute head­ways.

“The im­pacts are go­ing to be felt heav­ily, but in a ge­o­graph­i­cally fo­cused area,” said Den­nis Leach, trans­porta­tion di­rec­tor for Ar­ling­ton County. “For peo­ple who live on the Vir­ginia end of the Blue Line — it’s go­ing to be ab­so­lutely in­con­ve­nient, there’s no ques­tion.”

Although there will be no Metro bus shut­tles con­nect­ing Pen­tagon and Ross­lyn sta­tions, Ar­ling­ton Tran­sit of­fers two buses that can help dis­placed riders: The ART 42 car­ries pas­sen­gers be­tween Ball­ston and Pen­tagon sta­tions, stop­ping at Vir­ginia Square, Claren­don, Court­house Road and the Depart­ment of Hu­man Ser­vices. The ART 43 runs a route be­tween Crys­tal City, Ross­lyn and Court House sta­tions.

Leach said rid­er­ship on those two bus lines more than dou­bled dur­ing pre­vi­ous SafeTrack surges that af­fected the Vir­ginia end of the Blue Line — and that af­ter the surges fin­ished, many riders con­tin­ued to use the buses in ad­di­tion to, or in­stead of, Metro. That is be­cause they are sur­pris­ingly fast and con­ve­nient, he said.

“The ART 43 is highly re­li­able. You can get from Crys­tal City to Ross­lyn in 10 min­utes or less,” Leach said. “We’re re­ally urg­ing peo­ple to use that.”

The Metroway bus runs along Route 1 be­tween Pen­tagon City and Brad­dock Road sta­tions.

Dur­ing this surge, Metro work crews will be re­plac­ing hun­dreds of wooden rail ties and thou­sands of fas­ten­ers, as well as in­stalling thou­sands of feet of new grout pads and run­ning rails. They also will be re­align­ing the third rail, and fix­ing leaks and dim light­ing in­side the tun­nels.

Ad­di­tion­ally, work­ers will per­form struc­tural work at the Ar­ling­ton Ceme­tery sta­tion, which is above­ground.

The Ar­ling­ton Ceme­tery sta­tion will be shut­tered. Peo­ple at­tempt­ing to ac­cess the ceme­tery by Metro will need to ride the Yel­low Line to Pen­tagon, then jump on a shut­tle bus that will de­liver them to the en­trance of the ceme­tery.

Ceme­tery spokesman Stephen Smith said staff mem­bers have been try­ing to pub­li­cize the shut­tles to lo­cal res­i­dents who might visit. But most tourists to the ceme­tery come by car or tour bus, he said.

“We know it’s an un­for­tu­nate in­con­ve­nience for those who were plan­ning to come dur­ing this time frame, and we know that it makes vis­it­ing here more dif­fi­cult,” he said.

As for peo­ple who are at­tend­ing funerals at the ceme­tery or vis­it­ing a friend, Smith said they usu­ally park in a lot out­side of the ceme­tery, or ob­tain a pass that al­lows them to drive their ve­hi­cles in­side the ceme­tery gates.

“As much as we love peo­ple com­ing to visit, our pri­mary func­tion is an act of be­ing a ceme­tery,” Smith said. “So even though it’s ob­vi­ously not ideal, it doesn’t re­ally af­fect us that much.”

The tem­po­rary shut­down of the Blue Line will af­fect the rest of the sys­tem. For ex­am­ple, fewer Green Line trains will be avail­able be­cause of the ex­tra Yel­low Line trains added to serve Franconia-Spring­field and Van Dorn Street sta­tions.

But there might be fewer de­lays on the Sil­ver and Orange lines, Metro spokesman Dan Stes­sel said, be­cause there will be fewer trains crowd­ing the over­sub­scribed Ross­lyn tun­nel while the Blue Line takes a hia­tus.

Metro staff mem­bers will be mon­i­tor­ing rid­er­ship, he added, and can add more Orange and Sil­ver line trains if crowd­ing be­comes a prob­lem.

Af­ter this surge, one more long-term dis­rup­tion is sched­uled for North­ern Vir­ginia: Surge No. 13, a 37-day stretch in March and April when sin­gle-track­ing will roll in phases on the south­ern end of the Yel­low and Blue lines, be­tween Brad­dock Road and Hunt­ing­ton sta­tions.

Af­ter that, the 14th, 15th and 16th surges tar­get the Green, Orange and Red lines.

Wiede­feld ac­knowl­edged that, even af­ter the end of SafeTrack, the Blue Line will need more pre­ven­tive main­te­nance and in­vest­ment — par­tic­u­larly to ad­dress the ca­pac­ity is­sues of the Ross­lyn tun­nel, where Orange, Sil­ver and Blue line trains of­ten ex­pe­ri­ence de­lays be­cause of back­ups. But for now, he said, he is sim­ply try­ing to fix the most ba­sic — and the most wide­spread — track de­fects that im­pede re­li­a­bil­ity.

“Let’s get that all be­hind us first,” Wiede­feld said, “and then we’ll talk more about the longert­erm is­sues that we have to deal with on the Blue Line and the tun­nel ac­cess is­sues.”

BILL O’LEARY/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

An elec­tronic sign in Ross­lyn warns Metro riders about the 18-day clos­ing of Blue Line’s south­ern end.

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