Grosvenor Metro station. Photo by Isaac Wedin on Flickr.
Get ready for major construction along the Metrorail Red Line. Starting in the summer of 2016, WMATA will close portions of the Red Line between Friendship Heights and Grosvenor for 14 weekends, including one stretch of at least 7 consecutive weekends.
The good news is that in exchange for all those closures, Metro will complete a whole cadre of major rehabilitation projects up and down the line, and begin construction on the Purple Line. Instead of the piecemeal reconstruction that’s characterized Metro rebuilding elsewhere, this will be a comprehensive program that will solve several problems at once.
Metro will fix water leaks in the subway tunnel, repair the piers that hold up the elevated tracks near Grosvenor, rebuild the platform at Grosvenor, and begin construction on a new mezzanine at Bethesda station, for transfers to the Purple Line.
The most significant construction will happen
at just outside Medical Center station, where Metro workers will install a large arch between the tracks and ceiling, to help waterproof the tunnel.
The work is necessary because water leaks in the subway tunnels have been causing electrical failures. In addition to waterproofing the area around Medical Center station, workers will power wash the tunnel, fix leaks in the tunnel, install better drain pipes, and replace tunnel lights and electrical cables.
Since the water leaks are an immediate problem that will take several weekends to fix, WMATA will take advantage of the station closures to do other work as well.
The agency will rehabilitate the elevated tracks near Grosvenor, where the metal bolts holding up the aerial structure have begun to degrade. Although the structure is not in any immediate danger of falling down, it could become a threat if Metro doesn’t fix the situation now.
At Grosvenor station itself, workers will replace the crumbling original platform tiles with the newer Takoma-style tiles the agency has been using in recent years.
Finally, Metro will begin construction on its portion of the Purple Line, at the Metro stations that will double as Purple Line transfer points. At Bethesda, workers will begin to install a second entrance and mezzanine. At Silver Spring, the agency will begin to plan a similar connection, although construction won’t begin yet during this period.
There’s no doubt all this construction will be painful for riders, but it’s better than the alternate. At one point, Metro management was considering completely closing this part of the Red Line 24x7 for at least five weeks. By closing only the weekends, at least the line will remain useful for commuters.
Correction: The initial version of this post implied that a new arch would go inside Medical Center station. It is actually in the tunnel just outside the station.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.