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Rail News: Passenger Rail

WMATA's plans propose busy year


The new year might have just started a few weeks ago, but Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has enough on its plate to keep employees busy well past Dec. 31. Continued emphasis on rehabilitation and growth top the 26-year-year-old rail system’s list.

WMATA Chief Executive Office Richard White in a prepared statement characterized the agency’s 2002 priorities as four-fold: continued system safety and security; develop a strategic plan to obtain funding to repair, replace and rehabilitate the system while also accommodating growing ridership and system expansion; implement a $55 million initiative to replace all key business systems; and continue a culture change to become a stronger internal organization to better meet customers’ needs.

Already, WMATA has accepted 28 of its Series 5000 rail cars and plans to have two-thirds of the 192-car order on its property by year-end. The remaining cars are expected to be in service by spring 2003. Officials also expect this summer to award a contract for 68 Series 6000 cars with an option for an additional 120 cars.

Construction, too, will be in full swing this year. Officials expect to award a design/build contract for a 1,000-space parking structure and three major construction contracts for the Red Line New York Avenue station and the Blue Line extension to Largo. And the Branch Avenue rail yard in Prince George’s County is expected to be complete by fall.

WMATA last year began rehabilitating and upgrading elevators and escalators. This year, the agency plans to rehabilitate four elevators and upgrade 67 others for Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, repair comb plates on 148 escalators and modernize 50 others. WMATA also plans to construct canopies over the escalators at least three stations.

But, if rehabilitation and growth accommodation top WMATA’s 2002 "to-do" list, safety and security improvements aren’t far behind. In the Sept. 11 aftermath, the White House and Congress thus far have provided WMATA $49 million in emergency funding. Officials plan to stretch those dollars over several areas to increase safety and security throughout the system.

By late January, the first three of eight explosive-detection canine teams will be on site; the remaining teams in October. WMATA also plans by year end to locate and outfit an alternate Operations Command Center in the event of failure at its primary center. And by fall, facilities’ security would be enhanced with the addition of an employee ID entry system and installation of vehicular gates. Employee security would be further aided through personal protective equipment and training for 5,000 front-line employees in various operating departments by year end.

By June, 175 bomb-resistant trash containers are expected to be installed in the "free" areas of all 83 rail stations, and video recording equipment for the 1,900 closed-circuit cameras personnel had been using to assist them in observing station activity.

CCTVs and motion-detection alarms for rail shop facilities and yards are expected to begin in summer and be complete by year end, as is the installation of a fiber-optic infrastructure network that’s vital for recording devices and other communication purposes. Programmable intrusion equipment to alert police of the exact location of an unauthorized entrance to the system is expected to begin installation in summer.

Finally, WMATA plans to complete above- and below-ground infrastructure enhancements to its fully integrated communication system for Metro Transit Police, bus, rail and maintenance departments.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/18/2002