Metro is expecting delayed trains and congestion due to repairs this summer, and the agency is trying to mitigate some of the pain for riders. Orange and Silver line trains will run at late-night headways all day, and Blue Line trains will end at Arlington Cemetery for 16 days in August. A temporary bus lane will help move MetroExtra G9 buses while Rhode Island and Brookland stations on the Red Line are closed from July 21 to September 3, WMATA announced on Wednesday, June 20.
“During the 10 commuting days of the Orange, Blue and Silver line work in particular, customers who use these lines are being encouraged to plan alternate routes now and use Metro only if absolutely necessary,” notes the transit agency's press release.
Headaches come to the Red Line first
The first project of the summer is a 45-day shutdown on the Red Line to perform ‘rail reprofiling’ around the Rhode Island Ave station in order to raise the tracks up a couple inches. Currently when train doors open at Rhode Island Ave, a gap between the doors and the granite edge of the platform is large enough that Metro says the station is no longer ADA-accessible.
The transit agency responded to a letter from Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie and noted the shutdown includes Brookland station as “Metro crews will be working on both sides of the track along the entire rail segment from NoMa-Gallaudet U Station to Fort Totten Station throughout the duration of the shutdown.”
"In addition to the structural work and platform rehabilitation Rhode Island Ave, we will be taking advantage of the shutdown to do additional maintenance work," said Metro spokesperson Sherri Ly. "This includes major work on two switches in the Brentwood Rail Yard, a mainline interlocking and rail, fastener and tie replacement. In stations, we will be doing work on canopies, roofs, bus loops, lighting and other improvements."
Metro previously shut down this same section of track for 25 days from October 29 to November 22 in 2016 during SafeTrack in order to perform major rehab work. The final report available from that project notes 2,028 crossties, 795 insulators, 1,738 feet of rail, 1,245 fasteners, and 38 power cables were replaced during the earlier surge, among other things.
While this upcoming summer's trackwork is in the same area that Metro shut down for those 25 days, Ly said the two are not the same. "While SafeTrack brought the system to a state of good repair, we continue with a robust preventive maintenance program."
During the upcoming shutdown, Red Line trains between Fort Totten and Glenmont will run every 10 minutes, and trains between Shady Grove and NoMa-Gallaudet will run every 6. The agency plans to run shuttle buses between Fort Totten, Brookland, Rhode Island Ave, and NoMa-Gallaudet during the hours Metrorail is open. Another set of shuttle buses will run between Brookland, Rhode Island Ave, and Metro Center, Gallery Place, and Union Station.
The buses running the bus bridges during the shutdown will not be Metro buses, according to agency documents. Metro issued a Request for Proposals in April requesting bus companies to provide both buses and staff to operate the shuttles between the affected stations. All buses are required to be ADA-accessible and accommodate wheelchairs and other mobility devices.
The temporary bus lane set up on Rhode Island Ave will be between North Capitol Street and 12th Street NE, and will be in effect 7 am to 7 pm Monday through Saturday. Metro expects the MetroExtra G9 — which will run all hours Metrorail is open seven days a week — to be the main user of the lane.
Metro’s current plans call for extending every other Yellow Line train up to Greenbelt during some morning and evening peak periods, a 50% increase in service from the current schedule, though still fewer trains that have run in years past between Mt. Vernon and Greenbelt. The Yellow Line currently ends at Mt. Vernon during peak.
Orange, Silver, and Blue riders to see their own challenges
While the Red Line shutdown is in effect, Orange and Silver line trains are set to single-track for 16 days from August 11 to August 26 between McPherson Square and Smithsonian stations. Metro says those two lines will run every 20 minutes all day, even during morning and evening rush.
When asked, Ly said that both the Red and Orange/Silver/Blue projects overlap on purpose, "specifically scheduled for the end of summer when travel is lighter."
Similar to work done during SafeTrack, crews are going to use the extended shutdown between these stations to install new rail, fasteners, and pour new concrete grout pads which support the electrified third rail.
Blue Line trains will run between Franconia and Arlington Cemetery every 16 minutes, and ‘additional’ Yellow Line trains will run between Franconia and Greenbelt every 16 minutes - the old Rush Plus routing some may remember from years back. Yellow Line trains from Huntington will end at Mt. Vernon like usual while the two projects overlap.
Rush Hour Promise, Metro’s program which refunds riders if their trip is 15 minutes longer than the maximum length of the trip should be, will not be in effect for the Orange, Silver, and Blue lines during the extended single-tracking, nor will it be in effect on the Red Line between Glenmont and Fort Totten.
Metro Reasons is a regular breaking news, investigative reporting, and analysis column by Stephen Repetski about everything Metro. Please send tips to Metro Reasons.
This post has been updated with new information from Sherri Ly.