WMATA Plans Summer 2023 Reliability Upgrades, Service Outages

Written by Kyra Senese, Managing Editor
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The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority announced on Jan. 24 that the focus of project work this summer will be system maintenance and modernization.

The modernization work will entail rail replacement, fiber optic cable installation, improved station facilities, and upgraded customer information, according to a news release. 

The agency has used the lower ridership months in the summer to advance large maintenance and infrastructure projects with significant customer impacts, WMATA said.

The transit authority said it makes significant efforts to minimize disruption to customers and the region by collaborating closely with local jurisdictions, providing extensive free shuttle bus operations, and deploying comprehensive communications and outreach activities.

“Continued maintenance work is essential to safe and reliable rail service,” said Andy Off, executive vice president of Infrastructure. “We are working strategically to target maintenance locations and minimize the impacts on customers as we conduct this critical work to upgrade systems, improve reliability, and modernize station facilities.”

WMATA’s Infrastructure team is finalizing an aggressive Summer 2023 work plan to advance five major projects to improve rail service reliability and modernize rail systems and facilities for customers, based on new maintenance data and previous experience, a release said. 

Four service disruptions are currently planned to complete the upgrades. Service will be disrupted in May as station roofing work is completed at the agency’s Minnesota Ave, Deanwood, and Cheverly stations. According to WMATA, the work requires de-energizing PEPCO power transmission lines that run above the stations.

WMATA and PEPCO agreed to carry out the work in the spring, when power consumption is lower than in the summer and winter. To minimize the remaining impacts, during the Summer 2022 shutdown in this area, all work that could be done safely without de-energizing PEPCO’s power lines was completed.

In June and July, a two-phase shutdown will be implemented to minimize customer impact as work is completed. The Infrastructure team will concentrate on replacing 40-year-old steel rail, which has become far more prone to rail breaks than rail in any other part of the system, according to WMATA. 

WMATA has been tracking rail breaks in the system to identify priority locations for replacement, and this stretch of track has been identified as a top priority.

To modernize the system, teams will also upgrade old copper cables to fiber-optic cable, including advanced radio, signal, and train communication technology.

Beginning July 22, a 44-day shutdown is planned, with the goal of completing fiber-optic cable installation to improve rail system technologies.

The extended shutdown will focus on completing radio and signal projects that require new fiber-optic cables, as well as introducing technologies that will allow for more work time during non-passenger hours, WMATA said in a release.