SafeTrack im­prove­ments move on to fi­nal seg­ments

Metro GM: Sys­tem now starts pre­ven­ta­tive main­te­nance

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY JA­SON TIDD

In the past year Metro has re­placed 50,000 wooden rail ties, enough to reach as high as the Wash­ing­ton Mon­u­ment — twice — if stacked.

Smoke and fire in­ci­dents have de­clined 32 per­cent. Rail ser­vice in­ter­rup­tions have fallen 45 per­cent.

Metro Gen­eral Man­ager Paul Wei­de­feld on Thurs­day pre­sented a slew of safety statis­tics that sug­gest things at the long-be­lea­guered tran­sit agency might fi­nally be look­ing up.

At a press con­fer­ence at the Twin­brook Metro sta­tion, Mr. Wei­de­feld an­nounced the fi­nal surge of the year­long SafeTrack main­te­nance pro­gram.

Be­fore SafeTrack, 22 per­cent of ties were de­fec­tive, he said, point­ing at an old crosstie split down its 8-foot length. There were other crossties in worse con­di­tion, he said, adding that now only 2 per­cent of the sys­tem’s wooden ties are de­fec­tive.

The fi­nal SafeTrack surge will shut down Metro be­tween the Shady Grove and Rockville sta­tions on the Red Line be­gin­ning Satur­day un­til June 25. Buses will run be­tween those stops and Twin­brook.

Jack­son Smith, a Red Line rider who uses the Rockville sta­tion, said the surge will “put a wrench in the travel plans,” and he will likely use Uber to get to Twin­brook.

Mr. Smith said he as­sumes Metro is safer be­cause of SafeTrack.

“I’m glad they’re do­ing it,” he said. “I think it was over­due.”

How­ever, he has not no­ticed fewer de­lays. “To be hon­est, Metro’s still Metro,” he said.

Metro com­pleted three years’ worth of main­te­nance and re­pairs dur­ing SafeTrack, re­new­ing one-third of the sys­tem’s tracks, Mr. Wei­de­feld said.

“Three years in one year for an or­ga­ni­za­tion that peo­ple roundly crit­i­cize as not be­ing able to do any­thing, so this is an enor­mous achieve­ment,” said Jack Evans, chair­man of the Metro Board of Di­rec­tors.

Once SafeTrack is com­plete, the 40-year-old tran­sit sys­tem will start its first-ever pre­ven­tive main­te­nance in­spec­tion pro­gram.

“We have now cor­rected the worst parts of Metro,” said Mr. Evans, a Demo­crat who also rep­re­sents Ward 2 on the D.C. Coun­cil. “We’ve saved the pa­tient from dy­ing, but the pa­tient is still pretty sick. We have a lot more work to do in fix­ing what was 15 years of ne­glect in our sys­tem.”

Mr. Evans said his con­stituents ask him more about Metro than any other topic.

“Will I be able to get on the train at my stop and get to work on time? That’s what peo­ple want to know,” he said. “And up to this point in time, it’s been hard for us to say yes.”

Chuck Bean, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Metropoli­tan Wash­ing­ton Coun­cil of Gov­ern­ments, said Metro is bet­ter than it was but still needs to im­prove via re­forms and in­creased fund­ing. He called his ride from Union Sta­tion to the press con­fer­ence “world-class,” but said not ev­ery­one has a world-class ex­pe­ri­ence.

A Red Line rider who gave only her first name as Va­lerie said she com­mutes via the Shady Grove sta­tion and will use the shut­tle buses dur­ing the surge.

“I will be leav­ing at the same time,” she said. “I’ve al­ready told them at work, ‘I’ll get here when I get here.’”

Va­lerie said she hasn’t no­ticed any dif­fer­ence since the start of SafeTrack.

“It’s the same bumpy ride it al­ways was,” she said.

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