Repairs to Fix Leaking Bethesda Red Line Tunnel Postponed Indefinitely
Metro is restarting the process to find a contractor to handle the repairs after rejecting the only bid received as too expensive
A Metro video showing how repairs to the Bethesda tunnel would be made
For years Metro has known a Red Line tunnel in Bethesda has been leaking, causing service problems between the Friendship Heights and Grosvenor-Strathmore stations.
Repairs were scheduled to begin next year, but now Metro spokesperson Sherri Ly says an estimated $12.2 million project to fix the problem has been canceled.
“We are in the process of evaluating our options to address the water infiltration issues on the Red Line,” Ly said Thursday in an email to Bethesda Beat.
Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said during a press conference with reporters Tuesday in Montgomery County that Metro received only one bid for the project and “it was significantly higher than what we had estimated.”
“I’m asking for us to step back and look: Are there any other ways we can package that project?” Wiedefeld said.
Metro did not respond to other questions sent Tuesday about which contractor submitted the bid and how much it cost.
Metro announced the proposed project in October 2014 and said it would involve installing a new drainage system and a new waterproof precast concrete arch in the tunnel. The leaking tunnel has been a problem since the system opened in 1984, according to Metro. A 2014 presentation about the project noted “water infiltration in this section of Red Line has caused disruptions and has required extensive maintenance over the years to control it.” Metro had first proposed closing the Bethesda, Medical Center and Grosvenor stations for 14 weekends first in the summer of 2016 to fix the leaks, then last year delayed the project until the summer of 2017, before postponing it indefinitely.
The transit operator has struggled in recent years with arcing insulator incidents—in which water or debris contact the electrified third rail and cause smoke or fire. In the 2014 report, Metro noted one-third of the transit system’s arcing insulators occur in the Bethesda tunnel and that Metro spends $3 million to $4 million in maintenance each year pumping, dredging and cleaning the tunnel to keep switches in service and to prevent the arcing insulators.
Ly said that while Metro seeks a new partner to handle the repair project, “riders should understand this is not and has never been a safety issue but rather one of reliability.”
Wiedefeld said Tuesday the overall condition of the Red Line is better than that of other lines, where even more significant repairs are needed.
“A lot of the issues that we’re having in other parts, we’re not having [on the Red Line], because we had done a lot of track work a few years ago, so that’s good,” Wiedefeld said.
Metro has also said it is trying to coordinate the project with the Purple Line, which is scheduled to start construction late this year, in order to sync the repair work with construction of the Bethesda Metro station’s south entrance elevator bank. The six-elevator system will transport riders between the Bethesda Purple Line and Metro stations.