Since SafeTrack started last spring, Metro has been making large-scale repairs to its tracks by closing portions of the system for weeks at a time. That isn't possible downtown because so many people depend on trains running through there, so in early February, Metro is closing a portion for just two days. Think of it as SafeTrack Lite.
On Wednesday, Metro announced that no Orange, Silver, or Blue line trains will run between Foggy Bottom and Eastern Market the weekend of February 4th and 5th. Buses will replace trains at those stations, and riders should expect extended waits.
All Orange, Silver, and Blue Line trains will arrive and depart back out the way they came in at Foggy Bottom and Eastern Market. The Red, Yellow, and Green Lines will still be running and serving the stations they share with the east-west trains (Metro Center and L’Enfant), so you can still get to those places stations by other means.
Metro’s SafeTrack program has targeted the outer sections of the rail network where the rail ties are deteriorating and haven’t been replaced when need be. The SafeTrack surges, either single-tracking or full shutdowns, are typically several weeks in length and are large efforts to replace thousands of rail ties and replace other electronic equipment.
Extended, weeks-long shutdowns just can’t work in the Metro system’s core because of how busy the lines there are.
This weekend shutdown will allow Metro crews to do the the necessary track work quickly, which wouldn’t happen if it were spaced out over short instances of single-tracking, or even just overnight work; As I explained last year, that approach doesn’t work because too much of the allocated time is spent setting up and tearing down the work zone, instead of actually getting productive track work done.
Longer shutdowns, on the other hand, mean less time wasted at the worksite, which in turn means more work getting done in less time.
Metro says multiple crews will be out on the tracks during this total shutdown performing “installation of cell phone and radio infrastructure to support improved communication in tunnels, fixing displaced ceiling tiles, and conventional track improvements to rails, fasteners, insulators and other components.”
The FTA has noted that these downtown sections need just as much work as the outer lines, if not more. The additional train weight that runs on top of the rails means they need more inspections and also more maintenance, since more parts are susceptible to breaking.