Press Club
Yellow Line Metro bridge over the Potomac (Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman)

Local officials are concerned that major work on the Yellow Line, starting in September, will cause significant problems — and are asking Metro to come up with solutions.

Last week, WMATA announced that the Yellow Line tunnel and bridge crossing the Potomac will shut down starting September 10 for up to eight months due to much-needed rehab work.

Additionally, for six weeks, rail service south of National Airport will also be shut down to continue work on the new Potomac Yard station.

The shutdown announcements were not unexpected. About a year ago Metro said its plan was to fast track the work, warning that the bridge was “beyond its useful life.” In October, Metro said riders should expect the shutdown to happen by fall 2022. At the time, though, timelines and the duration of the shutdown wasn’t entirely clear.

Now, we know that Metro is expecting seven to eight months of severely-reduced service. The Yellow Line won’t return to full operations until at least April or May 2023.

While Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) concedes that the work is very necessary, he’s concerned the long shutdown will cause major delays and disruptions for local commuters, as he wrote in a statement last week.

Announcements of the upcoming completion and opening of the Potomac Yard station and the Silver Line Extension are both good news for the region, and will bring substantial benefits to Northern Virginia.

The construction work needed to finish the Potomac Yard station and the closure of the Yellow Line tunnel over the Potomac for safety maintenance will result in major commute disruptions for many of my constituents beginning in September. I am especially concerned for those who commute through the Huntington and Eisenhower Ave. stations, and increased bus service from WMATA and its regional partners will be key to minimizing the impacts on these riders. I urge WMATA to maximize Blue Line service to the extent possible to help compensate for increased traffic as Yellow Line riders shift their commutes during this work.

Capital projects and infrastructure maintenance are important to provide safe, reliable service to the region, but especially given the recent disruptions from the pandemic and 7000 series car issues, it is vital that WMATA do everything possible to look out for riders affected by this work.

Christian Dorsey, County Board Vice-Chair and former WMATA board member, said in a statement to ARLnow that he’s asking WMATA for solutions, in particular requesting the agency to work with Arlington Transit to provide bus alternatives to train service.

WMATA’s closure of the Yellow Line between Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations in September reflects both valuable and necessary investments in our transportation infrastructure and a tremendous disruption to transit riders. The shutdown will come at a most unfortunate time as our region attempts to return to our pre pandemic normal. WMATA must increase Blue Line service to the greatest extent possible, but even then, the capacity limitations of the Rosslyn crossing mean that the transit experience to the Pentagon, our National Landing activity centers, and to National Airport will be degraded. To mitigate these impacts, we need WMATA to provide sufficient increases in bus service crossing the Potomac and to work with transit providers like Arlington Transit (ART) to offer comparable alternatives to the vital service the Yellow Line provides.

Both Metro and Arlington Transit tell ARLnow that they are working together to “develop travel alternatives,” but specific plans will not be announced until the Yellow Line construction plans are finalized.

More information isn’t expected until “early summer,” according to Arlington Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Claudia Pors.

In 2021, an average of more than 10,000 riders used one of the four Arlington Yellow Line stations (Reagan National Airport, Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Pentagon) on a daily basis, according to Metro statistics.

Arlington’s neighbor Alexandria is also preparing for the shutdowns, particularly as it relates to the new Potomac Yard station on the Yellow Line. Service is supposed to start in the fall, but Metro’s announcement noted that work to connect the tracks to the rest of the rail system will take until the end of October.

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Metro’s Yellow Line, which runs through Crystal City and Pentagon City, could see major disruption next year due to needed repairs.

The proposed Yellow Line Bridge and tunnel rehabilitation project will include repairs to the bridge and the tunnels between the Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations.

WMATA’s project website said the bridge is now showing “excessive wear and corrosion,” while “decades of water infiltration and underground moisture have eroded the steel-lined tunnels.” Both the bridge and the tunnels “date to original construction [of the Metro system] more than 40 years ago.”

The transit agency warned that long-term repairs are necessary to avoid structural failure.

The project will also upgrade the fire suppression system on the bridge, which is currently past its useful life according to WMATA. Further remediation work in the tunnel will repair cracks.

Schedule of Metro station work, including Yellow Line shutdowns, photo via WMATA

The exact timeline for the project is still unclear. Andrew Off, Vice President of Project Implementation and Construction, said a shutdown of the bridge is expected sometime in fall 2022.

“We expect to start sometime at the end of the next calendar year,” Off said. “We’re still working through with our general contractor on the specific construction duration for the Yellow Line Bridge closure.”

Meanwhile, further south on the Yellow Line, Off said a two-week closure is likely as WMATA connects the new Potomac Yard Metro station.

“We’ll have a scheduled two-week or 16-day shutdown in late summer or early fall in support of connecting the new Potomac Yard infill station to our existing system,” Off said.

The station had been scheduled to open next spring but was pushed back to September 2022 after an error was found in the project’s design. Alexandria leaders are still hopeful the project could be moved up to earlier in the year.

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(Update 4:25 p.m.) Metro is fast-tracking repairs on the Yellow Line bridge and tunnels.

The transit agency is preparing for a major capital project to rehab the 3,000-foot-long Yellow Line bridge that crosses over the Potomac River, connecting D.C. to Arlington.

Upgrades will also be made to the fire suppression system on the bridge which is, as the release notes, “beyond its useful life.” Additionally, the steel-lined tunnels connecting the Pentagon Metro station to the bridge and the bridge to L’Enfant Plaza station will be repaired.

Both the bridge and tunnels date to Metro’s original construction more than 40 years ago.

“Metro is investing in an aggressive capital campaign to rehabilitate and repair elevated structures, and the Yellow Line Bridge is the top structural priority providing the region with a vital transportation link across the Potomac,” Metro’s Executive Vice President of Capital Program Delivery Laura K. Mason writes in the press release. “Advancing this project quickly is good for our customers, and will allow Metro to utilize this process on future projects to more quickly address critical safety needs of other elevated structures.”

In order to get this done quicker, Metro is hiring a Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) to coordinate the design process, pricing, and construction concurrently, allowing the project to move quicker.

Proposals are due April 7. The bulk of the work will take place in 2022.

A Metro spokesperson tells ARLnow that without a CMAR, the project would have taken a year longer and been completed in December 2023. Construction is schedule to be wrapped up by the end of 2022, Metro confirms.

The project is part of Metro’s 10-year, $15 billion Capital Improvement Program. A Metro spokesperson was unable to provide the exact cost for this particular project.

Word of the upcoming project comes in the midst of a budget battle that could result in the closing of 22 stations come January 2022, including four stations in Arlington.

The bridge was first constructed in the 1970s. It’s supported by box-girder spans and piers which are showing excessive wear and corrosion. As for the tunnels, decades of water leakage and underground moisture have eroded the steel-lined tunnels.

Maintenance and leak mitigation is ongoing, but “long-term repairs are necessary now to avoid structural failure in the future,” reads the release.

The state of the Yellow Line Bridge and the tunnels has been a continued source of concern in recent years.

Speed restrictions were put in place several summers ago due to track conditions. The tunnels started leaking in 2017, forcing single-tracking. In 2018, the entire Yellow Line was shut down for several weeks for needed renovation work on the bridge.

And, in 2015, the Yellow Line tunnel between the bridge and L’Enfant Plaza station was the site of a deadly smoke incident that left one woman dead and dozens of commuters hospitalized.

Photo via Flickr/John Sonderman

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Police are conducting a death investigation after a person died on a Yellow Line train Tuesday evening.

Arlington County medics were dispatched to the Pentagon Metro station around 4:15 p.m. for a report of a person suffering a medical emergency on a Yellow Line train bound for Huntington. The individual was found unresponsive and in cardiac arrest, and was declared dead shortly after medics arrived on scene, according to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Justin Tirelli.

Metro Transit Police and officers from the Pentagon Force Protection Agency both responded to the Metro station with medics.

The incident prompted delays and single-tracking on the Blue and Yellow lines. The single-tracking ended shortly before 5 p.m.

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Metro is shutting down three Arlington stations on the Blue and Yellow lines this weekend, in order to allow for some major lighting improvements set to make each station substantially brighter.

The Pentagon, Pentagon City and Crystal City stops will all be closed both Saturday and Sunday (Jan. 12-13), WMATA announced last week, work that is sure to create substantial disruptions on both lines.

Metro plans to run Blue Line trains on its regular weekend schedule between the Franconia-Springfield and Reagan National Airport stations and between Arlington Cemetery and Largo Town Center each day, with free shuttle buses providing a bridge between the closed stations. After the cemetery closes at 7 p.m. each day, Blue Line service will end at the Rosslyn station.

As for the Yellow Line, Metro expects it will only run trains between the Huntington and National Airport stations, with free shuttle buses on that line too.

The exact details for the shuttle buses are as follows, per a WMATA press release:

  • Blue Line Shuttle (No stop at National Airport) – every 5-10 minutes between Braddock Rd, Crystal City, Pentagon City, Pentagon, Rosslyn
  • DC-Airport Express Shuttle – every 5-10 minutes between Reagan National Airport and L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station in Downtown DC
  • Pentagon-Airport Shuttle – every 15 minutes between Reagan National Airport, Crystal City, Pentagon City, Pentagon only

Metro is warning anyone hoping to use the rail service and shuttle buses to allow an extra 30 minutes of travel time to reach their destinations this weekend.

Officials chose to kick off work this weekend because they’re counting on “lighter post-holiday travel” patterns, easing demand for service reaching DCA. Metro made a similar assumption back on Veteran’s Day in closing the National Airport station, only to see huge traffic snarls as frustrated commuters turned to the roads instead.

This latest construction project is aimed at installing new LED lights in all three stations, part of a $50 million project that involves lighting upgrades at all of Metro’s 48 underground stations. WMATA says that stations generally become about six times brighter after the new lights are installed.

The station closures will also let Metro “perform additional track work, including concrete grout pad replacement, installation of radio communication cables and tunnel leak mitigation” at all three locations.

The troubled transit system remains beset by questions of how to best complete needed track work while improving service and luring riders back to its trains. Metro leaders are proposing some key rush hour service increases in WMATA’s new budget, but it remains an open question whether Arlington and other Virginia localities will be able to help pay for those changes.

Photo via WMATA

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Metro is planning a full Yellow Line shutdown starting next week, and is warning riders of hefty delays along the Blue Line the two-week-long construction work.

The rail service hoping to complete major renovation work on the Yellow Line bridge over the Potomac River, prompting the closure. In all, the work will run from Nov. 26 through Dec. 9.

“During rush hour, trains will run about half as frequently as usual, due to capacity limits at the Rosslyn tunnel,” Metro wrote in a release. “Customers may experience crowding.”

Blue Line trains will run every 16 minutes on weekdays through 8 p.m., then switch to 20-minute headways. Riders can also expect 16-20 minute headways on weekends.

The transit agency will offer free shuttle bus service to compensate for the shutdown, including:

  • Between Franconia-Springfield and Pentagon and between Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza from opening until 8 p.m.
  • Between Franconia-Springfield and L’Enfant Plaza and between Crystal City and L’Enfant Plaza, rush hour only.

Metro is urging riders to consider Virginia Railway Express service between Franconia-Springfield, Crystal City or King Street to L’Enfant Plaza or Union Station, or local bus options instead.

The shutdown will also coincide with a weekend shutdown of five Green Line stations from Dec. 1-2, when the Navy Yard, Waterfront and Archives stations will be closed, along with the Yellow and Green Line platforms only at Gallery Place-Chinatown and L’Enfant Plaza.

This construction is Metro’s last planned major construction work of the year, and comes on the heels of a Veteran’s Day shutdown on the Blue and Yellow lines that prompted huge traffic woes for travelers hoping to reach Reagan National Airport.

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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A four-day construction project for Metro’s Yellow and Blue lines has been rescheduled to reduce the impact on commuters.

Work on replacing a series of switches and installing new concrete pads outside of Reagan National Airport will close the Reagan National Airport and Crystal City stations. The project was originally scheduled for Friday, Nov. 2 to Monday, Nov. 5 but has been moved to the following weekend, Metro announced today (Friday).

The stations will be closed from Friday, Nov. 9 to Monday, Nov. 12, which is Veterans Day. The change will reduce the commuting days impacted by the work from two to one.

During the closure, shuttle buses will replace trains between the Braddock Road and Pentagon City stations. Metro warned that customers on the Blue and Yellow lines will likely experience additional crowding due to less frequent service during the repairs.

Later in November, repairs to the Yellow Line Bridge will shut down the Yellow Line completely for ten days. Between Nov. 26 and Dec. 9, the Yellow Line will not be functioning and customers wishing to travel between Virginia and D.C. will need to use the Blue Line.

File photo

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Pentagon City Metro (photo by Katie Pyzyk)

(Updated 2:40 p.m.) Engineers completed repairs of the tunnel leak, and trains are no longer sharing a track on the Yellow Line.

Original post:

Trains are single-tracking on Metro’s Yellow Line from Pentagon City into D.C. after water entered the tunnel south of the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station.

Metro received the report of the infiltration shortly after 11:30 a.m. Thursday. Crews removed power to the electrified third rail on the nearby northbound tracks. After an inspection, engineers found water breaching the tunnel under pressure.

As of 1:25 p.m., trains were still single-tracking. Metro officials said an estimated repair time will be posted once more information is known.

Metro posted video of the leak online:

More from a Metro press release:

Shortly after 11:30 a.m., Metro received a report of water entering the Yellow Line tunnel south of L’Enfant Plaza. Metro removed third rail power on the inbound Yellow Line track. Upon inspection, engineers found water breaching the tunnel wall under pressure (see video below).

While there is no risk to the structural integrity of the tunnel, Metro has taken this action to prevent water from spraying on the electrified third rail. Yellow Line trains are single tracking between L’Enfant Plaza and Pentagon City. The source of the water has not been determined, but all indications are that the water is originating from outside the Metro system.

Service Information

Yellow Line trains are subject to delays due to single tracking. Green and Blue line trains, while not single tracking, may experience congestion-related delays due to Yellow Line trains waiting to proceed through the single-track zone. Customers on both lines are advised to allow additional travel time.

Metro will provide an update on an estimated time of repair once more information is known.

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Fire department response to smoke in Pentagon City Metro tunnelMetro riders looking to take the Yellow Line into D.C. might have to find another way to get into the District this weekend.

The line is scheduled to shut down between the Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m Sunday for more than 100 people to participate in a “full-scale response drill” for a “simulated” train derailment, according to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Travelers should use the Blue Line to enter D.C. instead.

“The exercise, which will take place on the elevated track approaching the Pentagon station over the Potomac River, will allow emergency responders to test their capabilities on the aerial structure in coordination with water rescue teams,” WMATA said in a news release. “In addition, the drill will simulate real-world conditions to test coordination and communication between on-scene responders, Metrorail operations staff, Metro Transit Police and support personnel.”

Members of the Arlington County Fire Department, D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services, Alexandria Fire Department, U.S. Park Police, U.S. Park Service, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Fire & Rescue Department and Prince George’s County Fire Department are expected to take part.

The drill is set come about a month after a “minor” train derailment at the East Falls Church Metro station.

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Suspects from a sexual assault that occurred on a Yellow Line train (photo courtesy WMATA)

(Updated at 5:25 p.m.) Metro Transit Police are investigating a sexual assault that occurred last night on a Yellow Line train.

Metro says three men assaulted a woman, grabbing her inappropriately, after she refused to perform a sexual act.

The assault took place on a train near the Braddock Road Metro station. Transit Police investigated the incident at the Crystal City Metro station Thursday night, just before 10 p.m., prompting delays on the Blue and Yellow lines.

Late Friday afternoon, Metro released a press release (below) and surveillance images of the suspects (above).

Metro Transit Police are investigating a reported sexual battery aboard a Yellow Line train last night and are seeking the public’s assistance to identify three persons of interest pictured below.

The victim, an adult female, advised officers that she was approached by three males at around 9:30 p.m. aboard a northbound train from Huntington. As the train traveled between Eisenhower Ave and Braddock Road stations, the males approached the victim and asked her to perform a sexual act. When the victim refused, the suspects assaulted the female, including grabbing her body through her clothing.

The victim reported the incident to MTPD officers who broadcast a flash lookout and conducted a canvass of trains and stations along the line. The victim declined medical assistance and was subsequently transported to her residence by MTPD officers.

The suspects were described as follows:

1. Black male (medium complexion), age 18-30, height 5’8″-5’11”, weight 140 wearing red t-shirt with “aero” logo and blue jeans
2. Black male (medium complexion), age 18-30, height 5’8″-5’11”, weight 140 wearing black t-shirt with white shirt underneath and black jeans
3. Black male (medium complexion), age 18-30, height 5’8″-5’11”, weight 140 wearing black Nike shirt with yellow “P” Pittsburgh Pirates logo and blue jeans

Anyone who may have information about this incident is urged to contact Metro Transit Police detectives by calling (202) 962-2121 or by sending a text message to “MyMTPD” (696873).

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View of D.C., the 14th Street Bridge and the Yellow Line bridge on the PotomacMetro riders who take the Yellow Line between Virginia and D.C. will see some slowdowns while crossing the Potomac River.

WMATA says it has placed a speed restriction on the bridge, limiting trains to just 15 miles per hour. The restriction is “part of Metro’s aggressive campaign to fix track conditions identified following inspections after the derailment of a non-passenger train in early August,” the transit agency said online.

Replacement of metal fasteners on the Yellow Line bridge is currently underway, Metro said, but may take 6-8 weeks.

“While it may seem like slow-going, we do not expect significant delays,” the agency said. “However, if there is another issue such as a disabled train, switch problem or medical emergency, the speed restriction may result in congestion prior to the speed restriction area.”

Additional 15 mph restrictions are in place on the Orange, Silver and Blue lines between Foggy Bottom and Farragut West, and in three sections on the Red Line. Readers and an ARLnow.com reporter have also observed trains running slowly in a portion of the tunnel between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom.

In addition to the slow restrictions, Metro says it has also placed “medium restrictions” of up to 40 mph in certain parts of the Metrorail system.

NBC Washington’s Adam Tuss first reported the Yellow Line bridge speed restriction this morning and posted a video showing a slow-moving train on the bridge.

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