On Thursday, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (Metro) Finance and Administration Board Committee approved a $10 million project to begin replacing nearly 400 Red Line track circuits, a safety investment that will ultimately enable Metro to run its trains in automatic mode.
“Metro is committed to funding and expediting projects that address the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendations,” said Catherine Hudgins, chair of the Metro Board Finance and Administration Committee.“Safety improvements will remain our top priority, and will be funded together with necessary infrastructure upgrades that are critical to maintaining safe and reliable daily services.”
Added Metro GM Richard Sarles: “Metro trains have been operating manually since June 2009 and today’s action is critical because it will get us one step closer to returning to safe and reliable automatic train operations.”
Track circuits play a vital role in the safe operations of the Metrorail system, which has more than 3,000 track circuits. The movement of trains is monitored in the Operations Control Center (OCC), through the signals sent and received through track circuits.
The National Transportation Safety Board identified a need to remove from service all Generation 2 General Railway Signal Co. (GRS) audio frequency track circuit modules because of their susceptibility to parasitic oscillation, which can cause a loss of train detection in a track circuit. All 1,730 of the GRS track circuits are slated for replacement, at an estimated cost of $60.5 million.
Metro’s Finance and Administration Committee gave preliminary approval to award the contract to Ansaldo STS to design, engineer, manufacture, test and install the 372 track circuits at 14 train control rooms throughout the Red Line. Upon completion of the first phase of track circuit replacement work, Metro will need to award additional contracts to replace the remaining track circuits.
The full board is expected to vote on the proposal at the Dec. 16 meeting.