WMATA representatives attended the ANC 4C meeting on Wednesday, February 10th to announce that the East side entrance of the Georgia Avenue / Petworth station will be closed for 45 weeks to replace the escalators. No, I didn't misplace the hyphen, it's forty-five weeks.
Anne Chisolm and Cedric Watson from WMATA said that starting on or about March 21st, Metro will begin work to replace both escalators on the East side of the Georgia Avenue / Petworth station entrance (this is the side with the sculpture, in between Georgia and New Hampshire).
Mr. Cedric said the ongoing work on the West side (under Park Place apartments) will be completed next month (one of the escalators is still under construction), meaning those three escalators on the West side will be available, and that the elevator will also be available throughout construction.
According to Metro, back in January of 2013 WMATA awarded a contract to replace and rehabilitate 128 "heavy-duty transportation-grade escalators throughout the Metrorail system." The contract was given to KONE Inc to remove existing escalators and replace with new ones through February 2020. Metro says they have installed 26 new escalators so far, and plan on installing 21 more in 2016.
WMATA's rationale for the 45-week timeline is based on the extent of work required. "We have to replace trusses and beams," said Mr. Cedric, when asked at the ANC meeting about the timeline.
WMATA says that timeline varies depending upon conditions of the location (rise, wellway condition, station cover/canopy, weather and dealing with cranes due to proximity to residences and businesses). "Many times the projects require considerable rigging activity to remove trusses and other supporting structures, and these operations must be performed when the station is closed (a four-hour work period)."
In comparison, according to a 2012 Washington Post article, subway systems in Montreal and Moscow took much less time to replace escalators than work being done at the Dupont station at that time.
“Aquin was the supervisor on a project to replace 125 escalators on the subway system in Montreal. The work finished late last year. It took between seven to 12 weeks to remove each escalator and install new units, depending on the size, according to Aquin and his supervisor Susan Coburn. One was almost as long as those at Dupont’s south entrance, he said.”
Officials in Moscow wrote in an e-mail that eight months sounded on the longer side for replacing an escalator. The Moscow subway system is the only one in the world with more escalators than Metro. The Russian system has 643; Metro has 588.
“It normally takes us about three months to put in an escalator of the size you mentioned,” wrote Oksana Ustinova, an interpreter at Moscow’s subway system.
WMATA's rationale for the length of time needed for the replacement is that the current escalators need a lot of repair as they are old and the original manufacturers are no longer in business, meaning getting replacement parts is difficult. They also seem to have a problem over the years hanging on to qualified repair personnel, according to various Washington Post articles (linked at the bottom). I'm sure we've all noticed how often those escalators are off.
While I'm honestly very happy to have these constantly malfunctioning escalators fixed, 45 weeks to do so seems really long. It made me wonder what else could take as long, so I did some googling. Here's some things that compare to the 45 weeks Metro says it will take to replace two escalators:
- 45 weeks is 10.35 months.
- You can walk from DC to San Francisco and back four times in 45 weeks (11 week round trip). Or walk twice from DC to Fairbanks, Alaska (16 week round trip).
- It took 58.61 weeks to build the Empire State Building (it stands 103 stories tall.)
- On average, it takes 26.09 weeks to build a single family home in the United States.
- It takes 43.48 weeks to build the average roller coaster.
- Human gestation takes 40 weeks (on average).
- It takes 11.86 weeks to build a Boeing 777 airplane. (We can build at least three.)
Some history on Metro escalators in DC from the Washington Post:
- Metro riders, and some experts, wonder why Dupont escalator work must take so long (April 2, 2012)
- Metro plans to hire contractor to speed up repairs of escalators 9/6/2011
- Get there: Why Metro Escalator Fix Takes So Long? (September 20, 2006)
- The Downside of Escalator Renovation: In $93 Million Metro Project, More Than a Third End Up Worse (2005)
- Escalator Troubles Rooted In Metro's Original Design (Dec 5, 1998)
In case you're curious, here's how escalators work (in case Metro needs pointers).