Boarding the train at the Smithsonian Metro Station by Daniel Kelly used with permission.

Metro is one week away from reducing service on the Orange, Silver, and Blue lines by up to 80% for two weeks, beginning August 11 and ending on the 26th. In all-bold lettering in an advisory, Metro says “All Orange, Blue and Silver line customers are encouraged to use alternate transportation and to only use Metro if you have no other option.” Riders will want to figure out now how they will get around the trackwork before it starts up next week.

From 1 am on the 11th until (hopefully) 4 am on the 27th, Metro is rebuilding the track structures between stations in the heavily-used core of the rail system on the Orange, Silver, and Blue lines between McPherson Square and Smithsonian. The agency says, “crews will rebuild the track infrastructure, including installation of new rail, new fasteners, and repairs to the concrete pads that support the rails.”

Farragut West, McPherson Square, and Metro Center (Orange/Silver) will be shut down the weekends of the 11th-12th and 25th-26th, as Metro crews set up and then tear down the extended trackwork zones. In between these two weekends, Orange and Silver trains will only run every 20 minutes from end to end, affecting all stations on both lines.

Blue Line trains will only run from Franconia-Springfield to Arlington Cemetery and there will be no Blue Line service at Rosslyn or towards Largo. All Blue Line riders heading north will need to transfer to the Yellow Line.

More disruptive than SafeTrack, but shorter

If that sounds a bit like SafeTrack to you, you’re onto something. When Metro wasn't shutting down portions of the rail network mainly to replace decrepit wooden railties, they focused on similar work to what they'll be doing later in August: drilling out and replacing the cement grout pads which hold the tracks. Some of that work can be found in areas such as the Eastern Market to Stadium Armory and Pentagon City to National Airport SafeTrack surges.

Taking tracks out of service for extended periods of time is more efficient than doing the work over multiple shorter periods, and less time is spent setting up and tearing the work zones down.

SafeTrack focused more on the outer regions of the rail network, and none of its 16 surges touched the downtown core stations where ridership is the highest. The agency shied away from performing long-term shutdowns or single-tracking at those stations in 2016, but is now doing so in a way that is likely to be faster but more disruptive than SafeTrack’s surges were.

Not only are the Orange/Silver/Blue lines going to be running with reduced capacity, but the trackwork is occurring when two stations on the Red Line are closed and trains there are running less frequently than normal.

Some say Metro isn't communicating the shutdowns well

Several GGWash contributors expressed frustration with Metro's communications about the upcoming closures in an email discussion. GGWash Editorial Board member Eve Zhurbinskiy says Metro leafletted the station she rides to for work and some signs are posted, but says “there’s a severe information gap, and I expect some folks will be caught by surprise.”

Another GGWash contributor says she saw only a single sign about the closures posted at her destination station, and thinks many commuters won't see it: “A lot of Metrorail riders have no idea this is coming,” she said. “They are going to be shocked and upset come August 13.”

Metro’s outreach plan for the 16-day single-tracking includes leafletting each affected station twice — once during the morning rush, and once during the evening period — during the two-week period preceding the trackwork. Metro employees in bright yellow smocks are handing out this brochure with lots of text describing the work that’s happening, as well a map. Metro previously published press releases on June 20 and February 13 about the Orange/Silver/Blue trackwork.

Contributor and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (ANC) Justin Lini emailed Metro to express frustration in the agency's communication about major trackwork that impacts riders. A Metro staffer responded to Lini in an email, saying “The work was announced in a June 20 press release,” and added that the release was “distributed to all ANC Commissioners in all eight wards.”

Lini replied to Metro, saying that “there should be a concerted effort by WMATA to inform the community more than two weeks in advance of the work. By August 1, riders will have already committed to monthly passes and deductions from their paychecks.”

Metro is scheduled to wrap up the Orange, Silver, and Blue trackwork on August 26. The Red Line segment shutdown is scheduled to end on September 3.

Metro Reasons is a regular breaking news, investigative reporting, and analysis column by Stephen Repetski about everything Metro. Please send tips to Metro Reasons.

Stephen Repetski is a Virginia native and has lived in the Fairfax area for over 20 years. He has a BS in Applied Networking and Systems Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology and works in Information Technology. Learning about, discussing, and analyzing transit (especially planes and trains) is a hobby he enjoys.