Metro continues delays on full response to residents' concerns about vibrations

First publicized by Petworth News in December 2016, the story of area residents who have been experiencing noise and shaking in their homes that they believe is being caused by Metro trains has garnered attention from numerous media outlets, but WMATA has been slow to respond.

After several news outlets pushed on WMATA and its General Manager Paul Wiedefeld to respond to concerns raised by Petworth-area residents more than a year ago, WMATA hired contractor Wilson Ihrig to conduct a vibration study. Results of that study were due originally in October 2017, then delayed to November. On November 30th, Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd sent a letter to to Wiedefeld asking for an update on the Ihrig work.

GM Wiedefeld responded to Todd via his own letter dated December 15th, saying the final report will be released "in early 2018."  The reasons for the delay of Ihrig's report is not clear, and when contacted on Monday, WMATA public relations refused to clarify any information. 

In a written response to questions emailed by Petworth News, Metro spokesperson Ron Holzer would only say, "The letter speaks for itself."

That was the full response from WMATA to a series of seven simple questions about the letter, including asking if WMATA had a statement for Petworth residents to help them understand next steps. 

Unfortunately, the letter from Wiedefeld doesn't do a good job of providing useful information. The letter provides an extremely high-level, non-specific overview of what Ihrig consultants might have determined after testing at "several residences in June and August 2017." It's not clear from the letter if vibrations felt in resident homes starting the summer of 2016 is being caused by metro trains or some other cause. The letter does provide some simple numbers regarding what Ihrig found, yet they raise more questions.

In that testing, Ihrig determined that vibrations are lower than what would be necessary to cause structural damage to local homes. "WMATA's vibration criterion for the tested segment of the Green Line is 70vdB," which the letter claims is stricter than "the Federal Transit Administration's impact criterion of 73VdB." But it doesn't say what the actual vibration levels recorded by Ihrig were.

However, 40% of the homes where they conducted tests revealed elevated vibration levels. "The elevated levels were detected in four of 10 residences surveyed," and that those levels coincided with 10-15% of the trains that passed by the testing locations. According to the letter, the vibrations found are not necessarily connected to a specific train series (WMATA has several different types of trains currently running, from the 1000 series to the newest 7000 series).

The letter goes on to say that trains that corresponded to the elevated readings did not have any problems, and that track inspections in the testing area also were not contributing to the higher vibration readings. No correlation is specified in Wiedefeld's response.

Wiedefeld closes the letter saying WMATA will continue to analyze track conditions, train car design and maintenance to identify the cause of the elevated readings.

Petworth residents still don't have an answer as to why the noise and shaking started last summer, what WMATA plans to do about resolving it (if indeed it's being caused by Metro trains), or even basic answers to simple questions.

Read the response from Wiedefeld to Councilmember Todd. 

Do you think the letter speaks for itself? 

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