- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 15, 2017

In the past year Metro has replaced 50,000 wooden rail ties, enough to reach as high as the Washington Monument — twice — if stacked.

Smoke and fire incidents have declined 32 percent. Rail service interruptions have fallen 45 percent.

Metro General Manager Paul Weidefeld on Thursday presented a slew of safety statistics that suggest things at the long-beleaguered transit agency might finally be looking up.

At a press conference at the Twinbrook Metro station, Mr. Weidefeld announced the final surge of the yearlong SafeTrack maintenance program.

Before SafeTrack, 22 percent of ties were defective, he said, pointing at an old crosstie split down its 8-foot length. There were other crossties in worse condition, he said, adding that now only 2 percent of the system’s wooden ties are defective.

The final SafeTrack surge will shut down Metro between the Shady Grove and Rockville stations on the Red Line beginning Saturday until June 25. Buses will run between those stops and Twinbrook.

Jackson Smith, a Red Line rider who uses the Rockville station, said the surge will “put a wrench in the travel plans,” and he will likely use Uber to get to Twinbrook.

Mr. Smith said he assumes Metro is safer because of SafeTrack.

“I’m glad they’re doing it,” he said. “I think it was overdue.”

However, he has not noticed fewer delays. “To be honest, Metro’s still Metro,” he said.

Metro completed three years’ worth of maintenance and repairs during SafeTrack, renewing one-third of the system’s tracks, Mr. Weidefeld said.

“Three years in one year for an organization that people roundly criticize as not being able to do anything, so this is an enormous achievement,” said Jack Evans, chairman of the Metro Board of Directors.

Once SafeTrack is complete, the 40-year-old transit system will start its first-ever preventive maintenance inspection program.

“We have now corrected the worst parts of Metro,” said Mr. Evans, a Democrat who also represents Ward 2 on the D.C. Council. “We’ve saved the patient from dying, but the patient is still pretty sick. We have a lot more work to do in fixing what was 15 years of neglect in our system.”

Mr. Evans said his constituents ask him more about Metro than any other topic.

“Will I be able to get on the train at my stop and get to work on time? That’s what people want to know,” he said. “And up to this point in time, it’s been hard for us to say yes.”

Chuck Bean, executive director of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, said Metro is better than it was but still needs to improve via reforms and increased funding. He called his ride from Union Station to the press conference “world-class,” but said not everyone has a world-class experience.

A Red Line rider who gave only her first name as Valerie said she commutes via the Shady Grove station and will use the shuttle buses during the surge.

“I will be leaving at the same time,” she said. “I’ve already told them at work, ‘I’ll get here when I get here.’”

Valerie said she hasn’t noticed any difference since the start of SafeTrack.

“It’s the same bumpy ride it always was,” she said.

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