Could broken rail clips on Metro line be the cause of shaking houses in Petworth?

A 7000 series train leaves the Georgia Avenue / Petworth Metro station

A 7000 series train leaves the Georgia Avenue / Petworth Metro station

WTOP published a really interesting overview of the recent Federal Transportation Agency (FTA) report on the status of the ongoing Metro repairs. Investigators have been closely monitoring WMATA and its employees as the SafeTrack process continues to work on existing defects in the metro system. One of the conclusions from the recent FTA report concerns the issue, first reported by Petworth News on December 13th, about the shaking and noise Petworth residents have been experiencing since this summer.

"Metro deliberately ignores some of its own safety rules for convenience, a new batch of federal inspection reports show." (WTOP)

According to the WTOP article, FTA inspectors discovered that many track clips, used to hold the rails in place and prevent them from moving, had broken off their fastener bases. The fasteners are designed to minimize the vibrations of the trains passing over the tracks, and even recently "replaced" clips had snapped off. One takeaway guess from the FTA report could be that the new, heavier 7000 series trains, which started running this summer, are shaking the rails and causing the vibrations and noise. Metro needs to do more in-depth investigations.

From the WTOP article:

After people living near the Green and Yellow Line tracks near the Georgia Avenue Metro station complained that Metro trains might be shaking their homes, the newly released reports show federal inspectors went out in December to look for a source of the problem.

Over a stretch about 1,300 feet long, the inspector found “numerous” clips, which were supposed to hold the rails in place, broken off of the fastener bases. When working correctly, the fasteners that had these clips reduce the vibrations going into the tunnel and the neighborhood above. On one of the tracks in the area, the inspector noted that even recently replaced clips had already snapped off. A different type of fastener that’s also in use in the area did not have similar issues, but that fastener was not designed to dampen the vibrations from trains.

After people living near the Green and Yellow Line tracks near the Georgia Avenue Metro station complained that Metro trains might be shaking their homes, the newly released reports show federal inspectors went out in December to look for a source of the problem. Over a stretch about 1,300 feet long, the inspector found “numerous” clips, which were supposed to hold the rails in place, broken off of the fastener bases. When working correctly, the fasteners that had these clips reduce the vibrations going into the tunnel and the neighborhood above. (Photo courtesy Federal Transit Agency & WTOP)

The FTA suggests that the increasing use of more new trains in the Metro system, which are heavier than older models, could be contributing to increased vibrations and pressure on the fasteners. This is exacerbated by the location of the stretch just outside of the Georgia Avenue station because trains put more force on the tracks when braking or accelerating. Metro has not yet reached any final conclusions on what may be causing the vibrations, spokesman Dan Stessel said.

The article also discusses issues with the Orange line and employee safety concerns, along with improvements Metro has made.

Overall, Metro has 452 FTA-identified issues that remain to be fixed as of the end of January. These issues are mainly tied to the tracks or the power system.

An entire stretch of Orange Line tracks near Minnesota Avenue is in urgent need of repair, a federal inspector found Jan. 19. While many of the issues were minor on their own — e.g., loose bolts as well as crumbling concrete supports for fasteners holding tracks in place — the inspector wrote that, combined, the issues “require repair to provide for safe operations over the entire section.”

There have been apparent improvements [at the Rail Operations Control Center], Metro’s equivalent of an air traffic control center, but work crews still face delays accessing tracks, making work less efficient.

You can see all the Metro safety reports on the FTA Metro Oversight website. The full article from WTOP, "Federal inspectors find mixed success for Metro," published March 17th, is worth reading.

Related Petworth News articles:

Drew Schneider

Local DC blogger in Petworth, Washington DC.



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