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by Adrian Cruz — June 15, 2016 at 4:45 pm 0

SafeTrack Metro work between Ballston and East Falls Church

The first SafeTrack maintenance surge, between Ballston and East Falls Church, is ahead of schedule, Metro GM Paul Wiedefeld announced today.

At the end of the day Monday, 96 percent of the planned work had been completed, with three days remaining in the schedule, Wiedefeld said. Continuous single-tracking on the Orange and Silver lines is still slated to wrap up tomorrow (Thursday), as originally planned.

“Given the importance of quickly getting into this intensive track rehab program, I am pleased with the work getting done in Surge #1, and want to thank the entire region for their support over the last twelve days,” said Wiedefeld. “While the immediate benefit for any surge is safety, as we conclude the surges, customers should see an improvement in track reliability and overall ride quality along this area of the Orange and Silver lines.”

The work done included rail tie replacement, insulator renewal, fastener renewal and leak repairs, as detailed in a report released by Metro.

Although early indications suggested that SafeTrack was causing delays for most commuters, the din of complaints on social media largely faded as the work continued. Riders who spoke to ARLnow.com outside the Ballston Metro station last Thursday (see video, below) said their commutes weren’t overly affected by the changes — fears of major overcrowding and delays did not materialize, at least in their experience.

Stage two of SafeTrack will begin on Saturday with shuttle buses replacing trains between Eastern Market and Minnesota Ave/Benning Road on the Orange, Blue and Silver lines. Blue Line trains will only run between Franconia-Springfield and Arlington Cemetery in both directions. The work is scheduled to wrap up by July 3.

Photo by Jackie Friedman. Video by Omar DeBrew.

by ARLnow.com — June 7, 2016 at 11:35 am 0

Metro worker suffering dehydration on the Orange/Silver line tracks along I-66 (courtesy photo)

Working on the railroad is hard work.

That was in evidence this morning when a Metro contractor who was on the team performing “SafeTrack” maintenance work on the tracks near the East Falls Church station reportedly passed out from dehydration.

Firefighters and paramedics responded to the section of track along I-66 and transported the worker to a local hospital for evaluation.

Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said the agency is taking steps to make sure its workers are well hydrated.

“Obviously, this is hard, physical labor on a hot and cloudless day,” Stessel told ARLnow.com. “We are providing water and sports drinks to all workers on site, and requiring frequent breaks — but the lack of shade is really the issue.”

Courtesy photo

by Jackie Friedman — June 3, 2016 at 3:50 pm 0

Christian Dorsey, Libby Garvey and Paul Wiedefeld at a Metro press conference in East Falls Church

Nearly two weeks of continuous single tracking between East Falls Church and Ballston, on the Orange and Silver Metro lines, begins tomorrow (Saturday) morning.

Major travel disruptions are expected during Metro’s maintenance “surge,” dubbed “SafeTrack.” WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld, along with Arlington County Board members Libby Garvey and Christian Dorsey, held a press conference this afternoon at the East Falls Church Metro Station to discuss preparations.

“We are going to make this work, it is a team effort,” said Garvey, touting Arlington’s plans to assist commuters and ease congestion. “We’re all working together.”

Metro riders can seek commuting alternatives such as carpooling or telecommuting. Free shuttle buses between Ballston and East Falls Church and Ballston and West Falls Church will be offered during the project. Additional Capital Bikeshare stations are being installed at the East Falls Church station in preparation for the work.

The single tracking will last for 13 days, ending on Thursday, June 16.

According to Wiedefeld, the worst impacts on the Orange and Silver lines will be west of Ballston. Orange Line trains will run only every 18 minutes between Vienna and Ballston, while Silver Line trains will run every 18 minutes. Additional trains will be placed in service east of Ballston.

The biggest effects will be felt during rush hour — riders are being told to expect “extreme crowding and delays” in each direction.

“Remember, the reason we are doing this is to make the system more reliable and safer,” said Wiedefeld.

The track work is just the first of numerous SafeTrack projects planned over the next year, many of which will impact Arlington riders.

Arlington County streamed a video of the press conference on Facebook, and yesterday released a video discussing SafeTrack (below).

by ARLnow.com — June 3, 2016 at 2:40 pm 0

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).

by ARLnow.com — June 2, 2016 at 11:55 am 0

More frequent and convenient premium bus service may be in place for Columbia Pike by the summer of 2018.

That’s according to a county staff presentation on Tuesday. The presentation was made during a County Board work session on Arlington’s Transit Development Plan,

Arlington County plans to launch its “Premium Transit Network” in 2018, with new transit stations along the Pike and other amenities added in phases through 2021.

From a county press release:

A major feature of the plan is the creation of a Premium Transit Network connecting Columbia Pike, Pentagon City and Crystal City. The premium network would offer bus service that is fast, frequent, reliable and easy to use, with features including simplified bus routes, increased weekday and weekend service, and a new one-seat ride from Skyline to Pentagon City-Crystal City.

In addition to new service, this Premium Transit Network would include new transit stations along Columbia Pike that provide near-level boarding, longer platforms, real-time bus arrival information and off-vehicle fare collection.

Transit for Columbia Pike has been a hot topic for the past few years. There has been the controversy over the $1 million dollar bus stop on the Pike, the debate over the Pike streetcar project, and its cancellation in 2014. The extended planning process for a transit alternative to the streetcar, following its cancellation, has even become a campaign issue in the County Board primary.

(The County Board is scheduled to adopt its new county-wide Transit Development Plan, including the plan for upgraded Pike transit, in July.)

According to the Washington Post, the discussion on Tuesday also focused on the cost of the enhanced transit stations along the Pike.

“Originally budgeted at $12.2 million, the price for the stations has risen to $13.3 million,” the Post reported. “That increase didn’t sit well with board members who remember the public outcry three years ago when the county debuted a $1 million bus stop.”

With 23 stations, the per-station cost is now just north of $575,000.

Other features of the Transit Development Plan, to be in place by the summer of 2020, include:

  • “A new north-south connection between Rosslyn and Shirlington”
  • “More frequent service from Dunn Loring to Ballston, via Arlington Boulevard”
  • “More frequent service along Glebe Road”
  • “A new connection between Crystal City, National Airport and Shirlington”
  • “A new connection between Buckingham and the County’s Department of Human Services facility at Sequoia”

“Transit is critical to Arlington’s economic and environmental sustainability,” County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a statement. “As our population – and that of our entire region – continues to grow – it is essential that we continue to attract more people to transit by offering outstanding service and reliability. We believe this plan will significantly improve transit across the County.”

by Adrian Cruz — June 1, 2016 at 10:05 am 0

SafeTrack logo (image via Metro)With Metro’s SafeTrack plan beginning June 4, Arlington County has released its response to the planned service cuts.

The first stage of SafeTrack involves single tracking on the Orange and Silver lines between Ballston and East Falls Church. Trains will run every 18 minutes, with additional Orange Line trains running from Ballston to New Carrolton.

In response, Arlington County will supplement WMATA’s efforts to assist travelers with its own. ART routes 55 (Rosslyn-East Falls Church) and 52 (Virginia Hospital-Ballston-East Falls Church) will use 40-foot buses instead of the usual 35-foot buses to add capacity during the surge. The county is also considering adding a bus lane on Lee Highway to speed up 55 buses during rush hour.

Capital Bikeshare will also be expanded, with capacity increases at the Ballston and Rosslyn stations along with a new Bikeshare station being installed at the East Falls Church station. For new or inexperienced riders, “bike trains” — bicyclists riding as a group — will be run between Rosslyn and East Falls Church, stopping at each Metro station along the route.

Along with the transportation additions, the county will make changes on the streets around the main Metro hubs, removing some street parking and converting streets to bus-only during rush hours.

Metro has released the following YouTube video to explain the SafeTrack surge.

by Adrian Cruz — May 19, 2016 at 4:15 pm 0

Metro SafeTrack plan for June 2016

There will be nearly two weeks of continuous single-tracking between Metro’s Ballston and East Falls Church stations next month, and that’s just the start of a sweeping plan to make Metrorail safer and more reliable.

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld released the final version of its SafeTrack plan on Tuesday. Intended to catch up on years of deferred maintenance, the plan will condense three years of track work into less than a year of a “safety surge,” resulting in major transit disruptions.

SafeTrack logo (image via Metro)The expedited maintenance, which will focus on various high-priority parts of the Metrorail system, comes as a result of the constant track problems and safety concerns about infrastructure Metro has faced over the past year.

The plan extends maintenance times on weekends, weeknights and midday hours and it also contains 15 “safety surge” projects, which will each involve 1-6 weeks of single tracking or complete shutdown of certain parts of the system.

The project will heavily affect rush hour commutes as service on the affected lines will be greatly reduced, resulting in extended wait times and more crowding on trains.

“Safety comes first, and I want to remind the region that SafeTrack is not just about the 15 maintenance surges,” said Wiedefeld in a press release. “SafeTrack also includes weeknight work that will require single track operations in sections starting at 8 p.m.; it means closing the system at midnight on weekends as opposed to 3 a.m. and committing to a moratorium on extra hours of early morning or late night service when it conflicts with track work.”

Here’s the list of track outages will affect Arlington riders:

June 4-16: Ballston to East Falls Church
Impact: Continuous Single Tracking
Service Change: Orange Line runs every 18 minutes to/from stations Vienna to Ballston, additional trains from Ballston to New Carrollton. Silver Line trains run every 18 minutes at all times.

June 18-July 3: Minnesota Ave/Benning Road to Eastern Market
Impact: Entire Line Segment Shutdown
Service Change: Orange and Silver line trains run every 10 minutes at all times, Blue line trains run every 12 minutes between Franconia-Springfield and Arlington Cemetery only. Yellow Rush+ runs all day.

July 5-11: Reagan National Airport to Braddock Road
Impact: Entire Line Segment Shutdown
Service Change: Blue and Yellow line trains run every 12 minutes at all times.

July 12-18: Reagan National Airport to Pentagon City
Impact: Entire Line Segment Shutdown
Service Change: Blue and Yellow line trains run every 12 minutes at all times.

July 20-31: Ballston to East Falls Church
Impact: Continuous Single Tracking
Service Change: Orange Line runs every 18 minutes to/from stations Vienna to Ballston, additional trains from Ballston to New Carrollton. Silver Line trains run every 18 minutes at all times.

Nov. 3-11: East Falls Church to West Falls Church
Impact: Continuous Single Tracking
Service Change: Orange Line trains run every 16 minutes from Vienna to New Carrolton, additional trains from EFC to New Carrollton. Silver Line trains run every 16 minutes.

Dec. 7-24 (Minus Dec. 17): Pentagon to Rosslyn
Impact: Entire Line Shutdown
Service Change: No Blue Line service. Yellow Line Rush+ runs all day, delays and crowding expected. Arlington Cemetery station closed.

Jan. 2-13 and Jan. 23-Feb. 3: Braddock Road to Huntington/Van Dorn St.
Impact: Continuous Single Tracking
Service Change: Blue Line trains run every 18 minutes. Yellow Line trains run every 6 minutes from National Airport to Mt. Vernon Square only. Shuttle trains running between Huntington and King Street only.

March 6-19: East Falls Church to West Falls Church
Impact: Continuous Single Tracking
Service Change: Orange Line trains run every 16 minutes from Vienna to New Carrolton, additional trains from EFC to New Carrollton. Silver Line trains run every 16 minutes.

by ARLnow.com — May 18, 2016 at 3:00 pm 0

Lee Highway at N. Veitch Street (Photo via Google Maps)

To help deal with traffic congestion during the track outages that are planned as part of Metro’s SafeTrack project, Arlington County is considering a plan to implement a bus-only lane on part of Lee Highway.

The bus-only lane would be implemented on the three-lane section of Lee Highway from N. Veitch Street near Courthouse to N. Moore Street in Rosslyn, and only during the morning rush hour. That portion of Lee Highway often experiences heavy traffic congestion in the morning.

The proposal will be discussed on Wednesday, June 1, during a “community check-in” on Lee Highway transit service. That event will be held from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Langston-Brown Community Center (2121 N. Culpeper Street) and will also discuss plans for ART 55 bus service on Lee Highway, which will be getting a new timetable this summer.

Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet says the bus lane proposal is part of a “larger effort to address increased congestion during Metro’s SafeTrack maintenance work.”

“Since Lee Highway parallels Metro’s Orange/Silver Line, we expect it to become a key transit corridor for moving people when sections of the Orange/Silver Line are disrupted,” Balliet said in an email. “Discussions are underway with VDOT about this potential change, since Lee Highway is a state road, and we expect to have more information to share at the community meeting on June 1.”

At the time of this article’s publishing, details about other aspects of the county’s SafeTrack mitigation plan were not available.

Photo via Google Maps

by ARLnow.com — May 6, 2016 at 12:30 pm 0

Weekend Metro track work outside of Reagan National Airport station (file photo)

(Updated at 4:35 p.m.) Metro has released its final version of the SafeTrack plan, beginning with work between the East Falls Church and Ballston stations.

This morning Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld outlined the agency’s plan for working through Metrorail’s deferred maintenance backlog.

The “safety surge,” dubbed SafeTrack, “accomplishes in one year, work that otherwise would take about three years to complete.” It comes at a time when major Metro track problems and electrical fires seem to be increasingly commonplace.

The plan involves fifteen long-duration track outages between June 4 and May 8, 2017, to allow for extensive track work.

The goal: to achieve “safety and state of good repair of basic track structure.”

So what can Arlington riders expect? First, there will be a moratorium on early system openings and closings — the system will close at midnight, seven day a week.

Additionally, the following track outages are planned.

Metro SafeTrack logoJuly 5-12
National Airport to Braddock Road

Impact: Entire line segment shut down
Service Reduction: Trains running every 12 minutes at Virginia Blue and Yellow Line stations

July 12-19
National Airport to Pentagon City
Impact: Entire line segment shut down
Service Reduction: Trains running every 12 minutes at Virginia Blue and Yellow Line stations

Aug. 20-Sept. 6
Eastern Market to Minnesota Ave/Benning Road 
Impact: Entire line segment shut down
Service Reductions: Three lines affected. Orange and Silver lines running every 10 minutes, Blue Line running every 12 minutes.

Nov. 2-12
West Falls Church to East Falls Church
Impact: Continuous single tracking
Service Reduction: Trains on Orange and Silver lines each running every 16 minutes

Nov. 12-Dec. 5
East Falls Church to Ballston
Impact: Continuous single tracking
Service Reduction: Trains on Silver Line running every 18 minutes, Orange Line trains from Vienna to Ballston running every 18 minutes

Dec. 6-24
Pentagon to Rossyln
Impact: Entire line segment shut down, Arlington Cemetery station closed
Service Reduction: Reduced service at all Blue Line stations

March 6-14
West Falls Church to East Falls Church
Impact: Continuous single tracking
Service Reduction: Trains on Orange and Silver lines each running every 16 minutes

April 16-May 8
Braddock Road to Huntington/Van Dorn 
Impact: Continuous single tracking
Service Reduction: Trains on Blue Line running every 18 minutes

In order to maximize productivity, all of the track outages will be continuous and will affect rush hour service. For the line segment shut downs, buses will replace trains around the station closures.

The safety surge will not only affect Metro riders, it’s expected to affect those who drive as well, in the form of additional traffic.

Here’s what Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) had to say about the plan.

After the jump, the full press release from Metro.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — May 3, 2016 at 1:30 pm 0

Smoke fills a Yellow Line Metro train on Jan 12, 2015 (photo via @JRogers202)

(Updated at 3:10 p.m.) Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), Arlington’s Congressional representative, has issued a statement following the release of the National Transportation Safety Board’s report on the fatal Jan. 12, 2015 smoke incident on Metro’s Yellow Line.

Beyer says the report details a “perfect storm of failure” on the part of Metro and called on the agency to “make whatever personnel changes are necessary to prioritize rider safety.”

Beyer’s office sent out the following press release this afternoon.

Rep. Don Beyer issued the following statement today after investigators presented their findings on the 2015 smoke incident at L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) board. The investigator’s findings were critical of the coordinated emergency response. They also highlighted persistent safety deficiencies at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) during the last three decades.

“NTSB investigators outlined a perfect storm of failure, coupled with systemic deficiencies throughout the first response network,” said Rep. Don Beyer. “I strongly encourage Metro leadership to make whatever personnel changes are necessary to prioritize rider safety. We cannot  jeopardize passenger lives.”

The NTSB investigators cited cascading safety failures within Metro leading to the [incident], including damaged equipment, improper operation of ventilation fans, and an order from the Rail Operations Control Center to send a passenger train into the affected area.

They also focused on a number of mistakes in the emergency response, including improper training, delayed reaction to the emergency call, and other breakdowns in communication.

“The emergency response to the L’Enfant smoke incident was simply inadequate,” Beyer added. “There is plenty of blame to go around and every agency must swiftly implement the NTSB’s safety recommendations to avert future incidents. We owe it to the people of the National Capital Region, and the family of Carol Glover, to do whatever it takes to create a new, high standard of safety in Metrorail.”

NTSB also found that the management and oversight of Metro safety remains insufficient under the Federal Transit Administration, and suggested that the Federal Railroad Administration assume future oversight of WMATA safety.

Later Tuesday afternoon, the remainder of Arlington’s Congressional delegation — Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine — issued to following joint statement.

“More than fifteen months after the smoke incident at L’Enfant Plaza, we are extremely disturbed that many of the safety hazards that allowed that deadly accident to occur have not yet been addressed. As the report states, responsibility for this incident, which resulted in the death of an Alexandria resident, is borne not just by Metro but other regional stakeholders. We urge Metro, the Federal Transit Administration, and regional authorities to move as urgently as possible to ensure that the problems identified in this report finally get fixed once and for all.

“Since that tragedy, a new management team has taken over at WMATA; the FTA has temporarily assumed direct safety oversight; and the federal members of the WMATA Board have been replaced. These steps must be the start of a sustained effort to overhaul Metro. As Congress grapples with the long-term federal role in funding Metro, the best case we could make to our colleagues would be tangible progress by WMATA management on addressing every deficiency identified in this report.”

Photo via @JRogers202

by ARLnow.com — April 25, 2016 at 8:00 am 0

ACPD K9 unitNormal service is starting to resume at the Clarendon Metro station after an earlier bomb scare.

Around 7:30 a.m., police and bomb squad units responded to the station for a report of a suspicious person who might have had explosives.

Bomb-sniffing dogs swept a Metro train at the station but did not find anything. The scene has since been cleared, although Metro riders should expect residual delays.

by ARLnow.com — April 14, 2016 at 3:15 pm 0

Firefighters respond to the Rosslyn Metro station (file photo)Update at 3:30 p.m. — Metro says trains are no longer single tracking.

A Metro train got stuck in the Potomac River tunnel outside of the Rosslyn station this afternoon, leading to delays and a paramedic dispatch.

Metro evacuated passengers to the front of the disabled train — then through another train — and into the station, a video (below) shows. Metro requested that an Arlington County medic unit respond to the station as a precaution.

Orange, Blue and Silver line trains were single-tracking through station as a result of the incident. Passengers should expect significant delays.

The train that became disabled in the tunnel is one of Metro’s new 7000-series trains.

File photo

by ARLnow.com — April 5, 2016 at 9:20 am 0

It was not a good morning commute if you were driving on Route 50 or riding Metro’s Orange or Silver lines over the last hour or so.

First, a crash on Route 50 at N. Fillmore Street around 8 a.m. left a vehicle on its side and one person trapped, before being extricated by firefighters. The eastbound lanes of Route 50 just reopened after an extended closure. Delays extends back several miles.

On Metro, a number of issues on the Orange and Silver line have produced big delays and crowded station.

As a bonus, there were also some issues on the Yellow and Blue lines.

by ARLnow.com — March 25, 2016 at 10:05 am 0

Update at 10:35 a.m. — No fire has been found and firefighters are handing over the scene to Metro’s emergency maintenance personnel.

Earlier: Metrorail service has been suspended between Rosslyn and Ballston due to a possible fire in a tunnel near the Clarendon Metro station.

Arlington County firefighters are investigating. The fire is said to be between the Clarendon and Courthouse stations. Firefighters are reporting very light smoke in the Courthouse station.

Wilson Blvd is being shut down at N. Highland Street and N. Garfield Street is being shut down at 10th Street N. due to the fire department activity.

by ARLnow.com — March 17, 2016 at 3:45 pm 0

Rosslyn Metro by Chris RiefUpdated at 5:45 p.m. — A Metro spokeswoman says the incident described below was a brake issue with a train.

According to Sherri Ly: “There was no ‘evacuation.’ The train was offloaded due to a brake issue… The train was taken out of service and the customers were able to board the next train.

“There was no electrical issue and the smell is not an electrical smell, it’s the smell of hot brakes – similar to if you are riding your brakes in your car.”

Earlier: A day after the Metrorail system was shut down due to the risk of electrical fires on the tracks, an apparent brake or electrical issue has prompted the evacuation of a train at the Rosslyn Metro station.

Numerous riders, including a reporter who occasionally freelances for ARLnow.com, reported the incident on Twitter.

We’re told that the train’s conductor was initially skeptical when riders began pressing the emergency button, but the train was offloaded shortly thereafter as it filled with smoke.

Metro described the incident as a “train malfunction” and said riders should expect some residual delays. A haze and an electrical smell was reported throughout the station following the malfunction.

File photo by Chris Rief

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