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Silver Line Phase 2 Still Facing Rail Tie Issues

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

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Washington Metro expects another possible delay of the Silver Line extension project to the Dulles International Airport and Ashburn, according to reports.

Currently, of the three concrete issues located between Wiehle-Reton and Ashburn, only one has an approved plan to address more than 1,000 faulty framing panels. Additionally, the 451 heavy concrete rail ties installed where trains may switch from one track to another, have angled the rails outward, posing a significant safety risk.

Silver Line Saga

This is just the latest of the Washington Metro’s setbacks. Back in May 2018, the Silver Line project was rocked by reports that employees of subcontractor Universal Concrete Products, of Stowe, Pennsylvania, falsified concrete test reports, certifying panels that were not made to specification. Andrew Nolan, who served as QC manager at the firm and allegedly oversaw the cooking of the books, pleaded guilty in August to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and agreed to cooperate with investigators.

The QC team at UCP allegedly changed values on reports indicating the air and water content of the concrete mixtures, and sourced aggregate from a different quarry than it had originally proposed, potentially leaving the door open to the alkali-silica reaction, in which aggregate reacts with cement paste, often creating cracking and spalling.

Ryan Stavely, CC-BY-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Washington Metro expects another possible delay of the Silver Line extension project to the Dulles International Airport and Ashburn, according to WTOP.

The whistleblower lawsuit, filed in 2016 by former UCP quality-control employee Nathan Davidheiser, was joined in 2018 by the federal government and commonwealth of Virginia. In addition to the allegations leveled against Nolan, the suit states that company executives ignored internal complaints about the fraudulent practice and in some cases demoted or even terminated employees who attempted to put a stop to the false reports.

At the end of September, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Office of the Inspector General announced it would take over the investigation into quality-control issues.

In the beginning of October, reports indicated that a garage being built as part of the second phase of the project was sinking.

In January 2019, alleged faulty concrete railroad ties came to light; lead contractor Capital Rail Constructors, a joint venture composed of Clark Construction and Kiewit Infrastructure, had discovered that roughly 400 railroad ties are up to half an inch higher in the center than on the sides.

And just last month, the first tests were slated to take place with a two-car train, which was pushed by an older locomotive, but only made it roughly 1,000 feet before encountering issues with the rail—the whole trip is 11 miles. In addition to this set-back, 300 cracks were also found to have formed in buildings that are meant to be used for railcar maintenance for an extension.

Issue Updates

WTOP reports that, since December, roughly 75 percent of the faulty framing panels at the Innovation Station have been seal coated for waterproofing purposes, and after weather-related delays, work on the other four stations—Reston Town Center, Herndon, Loudoun Gateway and Ashburn—is slated to begin this summer.

Hensel-Phelps (Bruceton Mills, West Virginia), the contractor building the rail yard near Dulles for the airport authority, has also proposed fixes for cracking concrete, similar to the protective coating applications.

With additional concrete issues still being investigated at the rail yard, bigger problems pose a safety threat at train rail change-overs, according to Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld.

Heavy concrete rail ties have angled rails outward at interlocking locations on second phase of the Silver Line. The airport authority is currently reviewing Capital Rail Constructors’ Keith Couch’s second proposed fix for this issue since the first was denied over shim insertion.

“We revised the solution, submitted that solution and we’re optimistic that we’re going to come up with something everybody’s happy with,” Couch said.

The new plan intends to replace the clips that hold the track in place at interlocking locations, addressing all previous concerns without creating any new delays.

While the review is taking place, Wiedefeld is also expecting to receive a report from a Metro-hired independent consultant on the rail tie issue, potential fixes and if the Silver Line service can still be expected to run by next year.

“We are going to be very strong that we do not want to take something that solves a short-term issue, and then leaves this board and this region with a long-term issue, in particular financially, so that’s our position we’ve taken, both with the contractor, and with the [airports authority],” Wiedefeld said.

As of now the date remains unchanged, but with so many unresolved issues, an artificial schedule can no longer promise the carrying of riders by train by mid-2020.

Only after Metro’s new budget plan (including $37 million in ramp-up costs) and data are revealed will officials be able to provide a definite statement. If delays are to present themselves, a delay for funding would pair with that news.

   

Tagged categories: Concrete; concrete; Concrete coatings and treatments; Concrete defects; Concrete resurfacing systems; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Protective coatings; Protective Coatings; Rail; Railcars; Sealant; Sealers; Waterproofing

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