Disaster Looms at Bethesda Metro Station
Escalator Shutdown for Rebuilding Scheduled To Precede Opening of New Station Entrance
ACT Launches Leafleting Campaign, Urges County Council to Build New Entrance First
Press release issued September 13, 2011
Overcrowded escalators at the Bethesda Metro station -- made known to the world as a symbol of America's inability to get things done by Thomas Friedman's new book That Used To Be Us -- will get catastrophically worse unless the Montgomery County Council takes action.
The Action Committee for Transit, Montgomery County's grass-roots transit advocacy organization, has launched a campaign to avert the disaster. ACT wants a new entrance to the station, which is already planned, to be built before any of the existing escalators are shut down for rebuilding. ACT volunteers will be leafleting at the Bethesda Metro entrance on Tuesday morning, Sept. 13, starting at 6:45 am.
There are three long escalators that go up to ground level at the existing Metro station. In 2014 Metro plans to rebuild them, one at a time. That will leave, at best, only two working escalators. When, as so often happens, one of the other two escalators breaks down, the one remaining escalator must be stopped so that riders can walk single-file up and down. During rush hour, the number of passengers getting off trains is more than can leave the station single file, and crowds of riders are trapped in the station. Many people can't handle the 275-foot climb at all.
There is an easy solution. Design of a new entrance at the south end of the station is nearly finished, and the county has already appropriated money to build it. But construction is not scheduled until 2015 -- a year after the looming escalator catastrophe at the existing entrance.
Not only is construction of the new entrance scheduled to start too late, but work on its design is currently at a standstill. Career officials at the Montgomery County Dept. of Transportation brought the project to a halt several months ago by failing to authorize Metro to spend funds already appropriated by the County Council. Before the design of the new entrance can be finalized, Metro's engineers must review the plans drawn up by consultants to the Maryland Transit Administration.