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WMATA seeks to reprogram dollars for safety measures, award track circuit replacement contract


Yesterday, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's (WMATA) finance and administration committee approved a plan to reprogram $15.7 million in the agency’s fiscal-year 2011 capital program to accelerate projects that address National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendations.  

The funds had been slated to purchase track maintenance equipment. Because of the time it took to refine specifications for the equipment, WMATA won’t have to pay for the equipment until it’s delivered in FY2012.

In addition to $10.3 million previously set aside for safety improvements, the $15.7 million would be used to fund 14 projects in the current fiscal year, such as: replacing the 1000-series rail cars and track circuits; installing onboard event recorders on 1000- and 4000-series cars; replacing power cables and isolating communications cables; and conducting a comprehensive safety analysis of the automatic train control system.

The funds also will help WMATA address findings of a March 2010 Federal Transit Administration audit that recommended the agency establish a comprehensive data review, develop and implement a safety reporting program, review hazard identification and resolution, and establish a formal process for corrective action.

Meanwhile, the committee also gave preliminary approval to award a $10 million contract to Ansaldo STS to replace 372 track circuits at 14 train-control rooms throughout the Red Line.

The NTSB has mandated that WMATA remove from service all Generation 2 General Railway Signal Co. audio frequency track circuit modules because of their susceptibility to “parasitic oscillation,” which can cause the train-detection module in a track circuit to fail, according to the agency. WMATA plans to replace 1,730 track circuits at a cost of $60.5 million.

Once all the circuits are replaced, WMATA will again operate its trains in automatic mode. The agency has been operating trains manually since June 2009, when two Red Line trains collided. The NTSB found that a failed track circuit caused the crash.

The board will vote on both measures during its Dec. 16 meeting.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 12/3/2010