Neighbors report shaking houses, rumbling noises along Metro's Green line

Residents meet to discuss the recent noise and shaking from Metro rail

Residents met on Monday evening, December 12th to discuss the recent onset of noise and shaking they've been experiencing due to Metro's Green rail line running under their homes.

At the Single Member District meeting of ANC 4C Commissioner Timothy Jones (4C08), more than 30 residents met with WMATA and DC gov officials to discuss what's going on. The message from neighbors as far north as Allison, south to Randolph, and from 4th across to 7th Street and along New Hampshire Avenue is incredibly consistent: the noise and shaking started mid-summer and it's getting worse.

"We've had nothing for 25 years, then all of a sudden, starting at 5am and going on until 1am, the house shakes and you can hear the noise of the train," said Bill Alexander, a New Hampshire Ave resident who organized the meeting. He said his house shakes with the passing of each train, every day. WMATA told him "it's just noise."

Petworth resident and meeting organizer Bill Alexander speaks about the issue.

"It's not just noise," Mr. Alexander said. "And I can't get WMATA to give a clear answer on what's going on and what could be causing this to happen. Are the new trains compatible with the tracks? What changed recently?"

Victoria Tyson said she's never noticed the Metro until this summer, when her house started shaking and she noticed problems with her floors. "I had Metro come out with engineers who brought a seismograph," she said. "I finally got a letter in November stating that according to their analysis, the vibrations will not cause damage to my home. They also told me the investigations weren't complete, so how can they know my home isn't or won't be damaged?"

Residents are concerned about any possible changes to the ground, breaking gas or water lines, sinking homes, and as one resident said, "Do I have to worry that my house is going to drop down on me one night?"

Another resident said it wasn't his imagination, "I've never heard this before -- something happened in June." 

Doug Arnold, who lives on the 4100 block of New Hampshire Ave, said, "I kept thinking it was a truck passing by or something." But every time he's looked out the window, the street would be empty. "You feel this?" he said to his wife recently while they sat in their living room, "Something is shaking the house."

Ann Chisholm, a WMATA representative at the meeting, said she was there to listen and get feedback, but didn't have any answers to residents' concerns. "We'll take it to a higher power," she replied to one resident who asked what WMATA was doing to address this issue. "We're taking your concerns seriously."

A resident who lives in a basement condo came to the meeting with his neighbor from the second floor, and both said they feel the building shake. "It used to be every 20 minutes, but during rush hour I feel and hear the train every 7 minutes."

Another resident said that he works in his basement and never felt a thing until recently. "My woodshop is in the basement, and I never felt the train. Now, I feel it up on the second floor of my house. It rattles the glasses in my cabinets."

A Randolph Street resident talks about cracks in the roadway neighbors think is caused by Metro rail.

One resident raised an interesting idea, saying that his great aunt had said there used to be a small pond or body of water located at Randolph Street and New Hampshire Avenue back in the 1920s. "She said it was fed by a stream," he said. "That water had to go somewhere."

Commissioner Timothy Jones said that residents need to "Agitate, agitate, agitate, and campaign to arouse public concern about an issue in the hope of prompting action."

Something is clearly going on along this stretch of the Green line. I reached out to Councilmember Brandon Todd's office to learn what they're doing to help residents, as well as to WMATA to hear about next steps. I'll update when I hear back.

Update from Metro: Received an email from Sherri Ly, media relations manager for WMATA: "Metro is looking into the issue. The source of reported noise/vibration has not been determined, or even confirmed as Metro related at this point." 

Update on possible cause: According to @MetroHero, the number of 8-car trains running along the Green line, including the newer, heavier 7-Series, has dramatically increased since this summer. Could the sudden appearance in noise and shaking be caused by the heavier trains? And if so, is there any real impact to the support structure above the Metro line, below the houses? 

Drew Schneider

Local DC blogger in Petworth, Washington DC.

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