The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) temporarily closed its Blue Line trains, as well as the metro stations at Addison Road, M.D. and Arlington Cemetery, V.A., for renovations lasting from Feb. 13 until May 23.
WMATA usually schedules maintenance for the summer months, when metro use is lower than the rest of the year, but is taking advantage of reduced ridership during the COVID-19 pandemic. Metro stations began reopening in June of last year following temporary shut-downs in March due to COVID-19.
To compensate for the lost service, WMATA will have a free shuttle bus between Addison Road and Capitol Heights. The southern part of the Blue Line will be served by Yellow Line trains between Franconia-Springfield and Mount Vernon Square, and between Huntington and Greenbelt. Additionally, the Virginia area will have a free shuttle from the Rosslyn to Pentagon stops. Alternate travel routes can be found on the WMATA website.
These station renovations are one of the many projects that have been undertaken by the agency’s Platform Improvement Project. The project addresses the state of deteriorating outdoor WMATA platforms after 20 of the 45 stations were identified as needing repair, as most of them were built nearly half a century ago. Since reconstructions began in 2019, 11 outdoor stations have been redone, including the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport station in the fall of 2020. The existing platforms will be torn out and replaced completely, with the addition of slip-resistant tiles, new security cameras, and enhanced arrival time screens, among other improvements. WMATA also announced on Feb. 16 renovations at 32 stations expected to take seven years, replacing 130 escalators including four escalators at the Rosslyn station and three at the DuPont station.
After the Addison Rd. and Arlington Cemetery stations, the Platform Improvement Project will restore the West Hyattsville, Prince George’s Plaza, College Park-U of MD, and Greenbelt stations from May until September. The WMATA plans to run free shuttle buses to compensate for these closures as well, with more alternate travel options to be announced in the coming months.
WMATA’s decision to break up the remaining work on the Platform Improvement Project into two phases—during the spring and summer of this year—is intended to reduce the impact of the construction on metro users. The Arlington Cemetery and Addison Road stations were selected for construction during the spring because ridership at these stations is lower during this period than in the summer, and it does not interfere with major events held at Arlington Cemetery.
WMATA is taking on this project after a year of financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic. A new budget, under consideration next March, proposes massive cuts for the 2022 fiscal year which will start in July. The proposed budget would reduce bus lines, eliminate weekend rail services, and reduce weekday operating hours. While these cuts come as a response to reduced ridership and subsequent financial losses during the pandemic, the Platform Improvement Project will continue to work on reconstructing stations.
The project’s budget comes from the Capital Improvement Program, which receives funding from D.C, Maryland, and Virginia. The program reinvests local taxpayer money in services that benefit the community. Though some capital funding projects have been delayed due to the pandemic, the platform renovations have continued.
“Despite our pandemic-related budget challenges, we must continue to prioritize safety-critical projects to keep the system reliable for the next generation of Metro customers,” Metro General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul J. Wiedefeld wrote in a statement on WMATA’s website.