Today’s mechanical issues were fixed in about 10 minutes, said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel, thanks to a technician stationed there to keep the escalators working while crews work to replace the elevator, which is closed.
But it’s clear the escalators, at 212 feet the second longest in the Western Hemisphere (behind the escalators at the Wheaton Metro station), are in need of replacement.
Despite pleas from Montgomery County officials to speed up that process, WMATA said the project would proceed as planned, with a construction start date in early 2014.
Stessel said those plans haven’t changed. The planning, design and engineering phase of the project is underway, Stessel said.
The project, which will require a staged removal of the three current escalators, demolition and overhead installation of the replacement parts, is made more complex by two factors: the length of the escalators and the fact they provide the sole entrance to the Bethesda Metro platform.
That’s why WMATA decided to replace the street-to-platform elevator first, Stessel said. That project is within a month of completion.
Until then, if the escalators were to go out of service for a substantial amount of time, WMATA would provide free shuttles from the Medical Center station. Passengers who don’t wish to use the escalators can already request a shuttle from Medical Center.
“I can’t recall a situation where, since the elevator project started, Bethesda station was closed as a result of the escalators not functioning,” Stessel said. “The station has remained open.”
Flickr photo by ehpien