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Metro Officials: Day 1 of SafeTrack Plan Smooth, But Long Way to Go

The first weekday of Metro’s SafeTrack plan to refurbish and rehabilitate the transit agency’s rail system had a few minor inconveniences Monday but largely was without incident, agency officials said.

Communication problems arose as riders tried to determine which platform to use at the Ballston-MU station in Arlington, Virginia, when single-tracking work began Saturday. Also, one train broke down.

But D.C. Council member Jack Evans, chairman of Metro’s board of directors, said the work has otherwise gone “pretty well” thus far, particularly Monday as the repair work was expected to cause a ripple effect on the region’s commute.

“We didn’t have anybody injured on the system,” Evans said Monday afternoon during a press briefing outside the Foggy Bottom Metro station in northwest D.C. “Trains, for the most part, worked. I want to urge people, whatever you did today, do tomorrow. Do Wednesday and do for the duration.”

Metro customer service representatives distributed brochures to riders at the Ballston station detailing the transit agency's SafeTrack rehabilitation plan on June 4, when single-track work began between the station and East Falls Church.

Photo by William J. Ford

Metro customer service representatives distributed brochures to riders at the Ballston station detailing the transit agency’s SafeTrack rehabilitation plan on June 4, when single-track work began between the station and East Falls Church.

Monday marked the first workday during Metro’s nearly-yearlong rehabilitation plan. The first project, or what the agency calls a “surge,” started on the Orange and Silver lines between the East Falls Church and Ballston stations and is scheduled to be completed by June 16.

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said the work includes replacing wooden ties, fasteners and rebuilding some catwalks.

He said about 50 customer service representatives assisted riders at the Ballston station and distributed SafeTrack brochures warning of “major service disruptions” and daily midnight closings at all stations.

The brochures, which encourage riders to use other modes of transportation during the repair periods, list all 15 projects, the affected lines and stations and type of work being done, scheduled to be completed March 19.

Weidefeld visited the Ballston station and praised workers and commuters for making Monday run smoothly.

“They are just mowing this thing down,” he said of the workers. “They seemed to be very engaged and I’m very happy with that. There will be ups and downs, but if the public continues to heed the warnings, I think we will be in good shape.”

Some Metrorail riders who depend on public transportation, such as Catherine Long of Arlington, said they welcome the updates to the outdated system.

Long set out Monday to catch an Orange or Blue line train at Ballston to L’Enfant Plaza in southwest D.C., then transfer to a Green Line train to meet her grandson at the Waterfront station.

Long, 83, said no one should be surprised by the crumbling infrastructure as more and more riders increasingly stress the aging system to its limits.

“Metro was built more than 35 years ago [and] you have all these people living here — it’s going to break down sooner or later,” she said. “Metro is OK. People just have to have patience.”

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