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Inspectors Found Damage In Green Line Tunnel Where Residents Complained Of Train Vibrations

Mar 29, 2017

Federal track inspectors who examined the Metro tunnel beneath Georgia Avenue Northwest in the Petworth neighborhood found damage to fasteners “designed to reduce the magnitude of vibrations transferred to the tunnel structure and the environment above,” according to inspection reports published by the Federal Transit Administration. The inspections were conducted in December after complaints that Metro’s new trains are causing homes along the Green Line to vibrate.

During the inspections, which took place Dec. 21, the inspectors found that numerous clips had broken off from rail fasteners, forcing a Metro representative to order a 40 mph speed restriction as a precautionary measure.

Most of the broken clips “had fresh breaks—most likely occurring on the same day of the inspection— which explains why the clips had not been replaced yet,” the inspection report said.

A close-up of a Metro rail shows broken clips lying nearby.

A close-up of a Metro rail shows broken clips lying nearby.U.S. Department of Transportation

Inspectors further noted “that the use of the 7000-series rail car trains—which weigh significantly more than the previous series rail cars—and the location adjacent to a station in which trains are applying additional force by braking or accelerating could be contributing factors.”

Residents in PetworthSouthwest Waterfront, and North Michigan Park began complaining last summer that trains passing through the subway tunnel were shaking their homes, rousing them from sleep and potentially damaging their foundations. The residents said the disruptions coincided with the increase of 7000-series trains on the Green Line.

After first notifying homeowners “that vibration occurrences are not significant enough to cause property damage, and that the level of vibration is within a range that complies with guidelines issued by both the Federal Transit Administration and WMATA,” Metro hired the noise and vibrations analysis firm Wilson Ihrig in California to conduct comprehensive field tests at some homes.

It is unclear when those tests will occur. To date Metro has not agreed with the assertion that the new trains, which are made of stainless steel rather than aluminum like the older models, are responsible.