- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 20, 2000

Metro will not have all of its new, high-tech rail cars for the opening of the Green Line extension next month, according to General Manager Richard A. White.

"It doesn't look like they are going to be here in January," Mr. White said of the 26 cars needed to open the final leg of the 103-mile subway system on Jan. 13 as scheduled. "We'll have to draw off [the] fleet."

Citing Metro sources, The Washington Times first reported in September that all of the subway cars would not be delivered on time, but Mr. White said he would work "magic" to get them up and running.

Metro chief engineer Charles L. Stanford said 22 of the new subway cars should be undergoing testing and repairs today at the Greenbelt station, and all 26 should be there by Dec. 29.

But Mr. Stanford said he is not sure if any of the new cars will be ready to run next month. "I don't have a big enough crystal ball. We're getting close," he said. "I hate to sound wishy-washy, but it's got to unfold at its own pace."

The new 5000 Series rail cars are being made by CAF of Madrid and shipped to AAI Corp. in Hunt Valley, Md., where they are being assembled.

Metro workers are trying to get the rail cars' braking, propulsion and automatic train operation systems running and working together, Mr. Stanford said.

Right now 12 cars, or six two-car sets, are being tested, Mr. Stanford said. "We want a quality, reliable car before we put it into service."

The 26 are among 192 subway cars being built for Metro at a cost of $220 million.

Metro has 767 rail cars, some of which are 25 years old, and needs 612 to run the current system at full capacity.

To open the five new Green Line stations between Branch Avenue and Anacostia on time, Metro will use older 2000 Series, 3000 series and 4000 Series cars, Mr. White said. The older cars lack the high-tech options of the 5000 Series, like diagnostic hardware that lets train operators troubleshoot problems.

No matter what cars are used, Mr. White said, the extension will open on time. "If I have to push the trains, we'll be running," he said.

Metro spokesman Ray Feldmann said the older cars are as good as new.

"Every car that we put out … when they are put out on the line, they are safe and reliable," he said, noting many of the older cars underwent Metro's $96 million emergency rail-rehabilitation program.

Yet frigid temperatures and icy conditions in the past have caused rail cars to break down. Cars also have been more difficult to repair during harsh weather. Both conditions could create a shortage of cars.

Mr. Feldmann said the weather should not be a factor and using cars from the fleet's surplus will not endanger Metro's service. "We feel that we have more than enough cars in our fleet," he said.

The opening of the five stations on the Green Line extension will mark the completion of the originally planned, 103-mile subway which opened its first segment in 1976.

Increased ridership has left Metro with a shortage of cars that has caused delays and overcrowding during the morning and evening rush hours.

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