MTA's light rail spur passes the rain test, makes the grade Track will handle Penn Station-BWI traffic

December 01, 1997|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Transit officials breathed a sigh of relief when Mass Transit Administration light rail cars moved gingerly across a rain-slicked elevated trestle's twisting curve yesterday in a crucial test of a new spur connecting the trolley with Baltimore's Pennsylvania Station.

Motormen tested cars all day down a one-third-mile section of track that spans the Jones Falls Expressway, descends into the Jones Falls Valley and runs under the Maryland Avenue bridge before coming to a stop at Penn Station's Platform One.

"Seeing it work today is easing a lot of our concerns," said the MTA's engineering office director, Frank S. Waesche III, as he watched a light rail car negotiate a sharp turn on a section of elevated track east of Mount Royal Avenue.

Transit officials had worried that the 106,000-pound light rail cars would have difficulty climbing the steep grade out of the Jones Falls Valley when the rails were slick from rain, snow or ice.

Yesterday afternoon's light rain was just enough to make the newly laid and untested steel rails slippery.

"This would be one of our most problematic weather conditions, and we made it fine," Waesche said.

Full passenger operations are scheduled to begin Saturday from Penn Station to the Baltimore-Washington International Airport's new Gov. William Donald Schaefer International Terminal.

Waesche said that his staff will be observing the speeds of test vehicles this week to see how much momentum they need to climb the steep grade from the base of the Jones Falls Valley to Mount Royal Avenue.

"We've been waiting 2 1/2 years for the start of this service and a lot of work for the engineers, contractors and operations people has all come together to make this happen," the engineering chief said.

Pub Date: 12/01/97

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