Residents met last December with representatives from WMATA, Councilmember Brandon Todd's office and others to share their concerns about rumbling noises and shaking they felt was caused by Metro trains running underground through Petworth. Answers to what's causing this seem hard to get.
"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 December 2016 meeting. He said his house shakes with the passing of each train, every day. WMATA told him "it's just noise."
Metro wouldn't even confirm the noise or shaking, saying "The source of reported noise/vibration has not been determined, or even confirmed as Metro related at this point."
After shrugging off residents for a few months, WMATA finally decided to do some testing after Councilmember Todd sent General Manager Paul Wiedefeld a letter asking for a more in-depth investigation of residents' concerns. WMATA hired the firm Wilson Ihrig to study the shaking that residents have complained is ruining their homes and peace of mind.
For some context, MetroHero shared a graphic on Twitter that shows the monthly average number of 8-car trains on the Green and Yellow lines since January 2016, with the caveat that not all 8-car trains are new 7000-series trains, as WMATA does not provide the data necessary to distinguish between new and old trains. (MetroHero was very helpful last year when this story was published first by Petworth News.)
To help explain the graph, in February 2017 there were an average of 5.5 eight-car Green line trains in revenue service at any given time during that month. According to MetroHero, "the data is an aggregation, so in reality it doesn't speak to any one moment in time during February 2017 (hence why it's 5.5, and you obviously can't have half of a train). This type of analysis is really only useful when looking at the average over time -- month to month like the graph shows, for example."
Residents have been waiting to learn what is causing this new phenomenon, and what WMATA plans to do about it. The report from Ihrig due in October or early November, is late, further frustrating residents who wants answers to glasses shaking in cabinets, floors rumbling and cracks appearing in walls.
To help move the issue forward again, Councilmember Brandon Todd sent a follow-up letter to GM Wiedefeld on November 30th asking for an expedited timeline and that Ihrig's findings be made available and discussed before the end of 2017.
There's been several culprits raised as possible causes of the shaking and noise, but the one that seems to the most potentially probable are the new 7000 series trains, which are heavier than the older trains they replace. Combine the heavier trains with loose and broken rail ties, and the possibility that it's the new trains is even more likely. But we won't know until Ihrig releases their report.
It's been so quiet from WMATA that you can almost hear the sound of crickets, if it weren't for the noise of the underground trains...
Here's CM Todd's letter (full text and related articles below image):
Full text of the letter:
Dear General Manager Wiedefeld,
I am writing again in regards to the ongoing issue of vibrations and shaking caused by Green/Yellow Line Metro trains passing underneath the Petworth area. I remain extremely concerned that progress on this matter has been unusually slow, given the significance of the impacts described by residents. They report intense shaking of the foundations of their homes, which is causing cracks in the wall and other property damage. Similar reports have also occurred in other neighborhoods throughout the District .
It is my understanding that the third party contractor, Wilson Ihrig, completed data collection and testing in late August, 2017. I was informed that the report was expected to be presented in November. That has not yet occurred. When will the findings of that study be presented to you, WMATA staff, the Board, and members of the community? It is imperative that the results of the analysis be made available for review and discussion, so that a corrective plan can be mapped out and implemented as quickly as possible. I urge you to use whatever authority at your disposal to ensure that this occurs before the end of 2017.
I first wrote to you about this issue on December 14, 2016. While I and the residents I represent understand that such a complicated matter takes time to properly study, we have eagerly awaited tangible progress on this time - sensitive matter for over one year. I implore you to expedite the process and give these residents some much - needed relief. I appreciate your attention to this urgent matter and look forward to your response. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach my office at (202) 724-8052 .
Brandon T. Todd
Councilmember, Ward 4