(Courtesy photo)
(Courtesy photo)

The Federal Transit Administration issued another safety directive Friday for Metro, this time to address 47 items on improving its traction power system, which provides electric power to its trains.

Although Metro has worked to correct some of the deficiencies, the FTA noted in its report that training of the system lags behind and needs corrective maintenance.

Without proper assessment training, water, mud and debris in the system can lead to arcing, which resulted in a cable catching fire in March at the McPherson Square station in northwest D.C.

“It is important to note that FTAs reports do not amount to a finding that the Metrorail system is unsafe,” the 85-page document stated. “In each investigation and report, and with each step taken, the FTA has assessed the risk associated with the flaws found in the Metrorail system and determined that those risks are not so great that they place passengers and workers at substantial risk of death or injury.”

The FTA outlined its report in four categories with required actions, including:

• Develop a five-year plan for staffing to implement results of the revised workload assessment;

• Appropriately train and assign personnel to correctly install and maintain all negative return system components;

• Institute a cable testing program for jumper and transition cables located in the tunnel area until these cables are upgraded and/or replaced; and

• Provide FTA with a timeline on its plan to use only eight-car trains and replacement of all primary and secondary traction power electrification (TPE) system cables.

The report also highlights 70 electrical arcing and smoke/fire incidents between Oct. 26, 2015, to Oct. 21 of this year.

According to a Metrorail map, more than half of such incidents occurred on the Red Line, the rail system’s most heavily traveled line.

“Programs to replace and upgrade critical TPE infrastructure … have not been sufficient for the age of the system or the demand placed on it,” the report states. “The age and degraded condition of this secondary cabling system now presents a potential point of failure for sustained electrical arcing events and fires.”

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement that Metro must correct its problems to avoid future incidents on the trains.

“The safe operation of Metrorail service is directly dependent on [Metro] implementing corrective actions to reduce and eliminate electrical arcing events that have too often resulted in smoke and fire, which can endanger passenger safety,” he said. “[Metro] has already started to address these issues, and the FTA report and special directive will help [Metro] prioritize what it must do to improve its traction power system to keep the trains running safely.”

To read the full report, go to http://bit.ly/2gKFFft.

The report could be discussed at the next board of directors meeting on Thursday, Dec. 15.

However, one of the main items will be late-night service hours for Metrorail, which an agency committee recommended to have stations open from 5 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 5 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday; 7 a.m.-1 a.m. Saturday; and 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday.

The board could also approve to hold a public hearing the week of Jan. 30 on the proposed $1.8 billion fiscal 2018 budget. A public comment period will last from Jan. 14 until Feb. 6.

Meanwhile, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 will co-host three town hall meetings in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties and Northern Virginia regarding the budget at these locations: 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Jan. 5 at the UFCW Local 400 in Landover; 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Jan. 18 at the Montgomery County Executive office building in Rockville; and Jan. 24 in Northern Virginia with the location and time to be determined.

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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