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Rail News: Safety

WMATA unveils final 'SafeTrack' plan


Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul Wiedefeld yesterday released a final version of his "SafeTrack" comprehensive maintenance plan for the agency's subway system.

A combination of 15 long-duration track outages for key system segments and significantly expanded maintenance time on weekends, weeknights and weekdays, the plan crams three years worth of work into one year.

SafeTrack is aimed at addressing the Federal Transit Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board's safety recommendations, along with tackling the transit agency's deferred maintenance backlogs, WMATA officials said in a press release.

Plan implementation began following review and collaboration with the FTA, and consideration of traffic mitigation and alternative travel options by departments of transportation in D.C., Maryland and Virginia; regional law enforcement; the Office of Personnel Management; the Department of Homeland Security; and the General Services Administration.

In addition to the 15 "safety surges" that will require long-duration track outages, SafeTrack also calls for closing the Metrorail system at midnight every night rather than at 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, and beginning certain repair projects at 8 p.m. instead of 10 p.m.

Each safety surge project will result in around-the-clock single tracking or shutdowns of selected track segments; they'll also have a "significant impact" on rush-hour commutes, WMATA officials said. Many of the projects also will severely reduce train frequency, resulting in crowding and extended wait times.

The surges will begin in June and run through mid-March 2017, with the first project scheduled to run June 4 through June 16. That surge will involve continuous single tracking on a portion of the Orange and Silver lines.