UPDATE: Problems with concrete ties emerge on Metro’s Silver Line Phase II project

Written by Staff and newswire report
Silver Line Project Washington, DC Metro

Updates story to include comments from Capital Rail Constructors in fifth and sixth paragraphs.

Hundreds of concrete ties set for use on Washington, D.C.’s Metro Silver Line are flawed, according to a report in the Washington Post. But it’s not clear who will fix the problem.

The ties are raised in the middle, sometimes by as much as a half-inch, Charles Stark, executive director of the $5.8 billion Silver Line rail project, told the newspaper. The ties are slated for use at track crossovers, and the flaws could cause subway trains to lean toward the outside, Stark said.

Capital Rail Constructors, a joint venture of Bethesda-based Clark Construction Group and Kiewit Infrastructure, discovered the flaws in September. CRC replaced some ties on the west segment of the rail line and said it would install shims on the eastern segment to solve the problem.  But the shim idea was rejected by both Metro and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which oversees construction of the Silver Line project.

“Metro and the Airports Authority have concluded that the contractor’s proposed remedy, which would keep the current ties in place, would result in significant ongoing maintenance issues and is therefore unacceptable,” Metro spokeswoman Sherri Ly told the Post.

Keith Couch, project director for CRC, told Railway Track & Structures he was confident that by working with the agencies and the tie supplier “we will arrive at a solution that benefits the project.”

Couch noted that “less than 2% of the concrete ties on the project are potentially affected and they are only located on the special track sections.” In addition, it’s unclear what caused the problem, Couch said. A tie, base plate, frog, and pad all have their own allowable tolerances. “When installed together, each of these components can individually impact the cross-level,” Couch said. “In some cases, when combined, it can cause the ⅛” construction tolerance to be exceeded, even when the individual component is within tolerance.”

The ties were manufactured by Rocla Concrete Tie. Railway Track & Structures could not reach a spokesperson for the company by presstime. Brett Urquhart, a senior vice president with Rocla, told the Post the ties were designed and manufactured to the same specifications as others in the Silver Line project, and said the problems may be the result of a larger design issue.

The Silver Line Phase II project would extend Metrorail service from the current terminus at Wiehle-Reston East 11.4 miles to Ashburn, Va. The project includes six new stations, as well as track and structures, power substations, signals and a new Dulles rail yard to store and maintain trains.

The project is already 13 months behind schedule, after a different set of problems were discovered.

First, in 2015, CRC halted work after cracks were detected in girders supporting the tracks near Dulles International Airport.

Then earlier this year, CRC announced it had found problems with the concrete panels installed at five of the six stations under construction. Earlier this week the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia has obtained a $700,567 judgment against Andrew Nolan, a former quality control manager for Pennsylvania-based Universal Concrete Products Corp., for falsifying air content test results on those panels.


Categories: Ballast, Ties, Rail, Bridge/Retaining Walls/Tunnels, News, Track Structure
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