Light rail stretch closes

Repairs interrupt service between North Avenue, Hunt Valley

November 16, 2008|By a Baltimore Sun reporter

Light rail service has been discontinued indefinitely between the North Avenue and Hunt Valley stations because a large number of trains are out of service for wheel maintenance, the Maryland Transit Administration has announced.

The disruption in service began yesterday.

The Penn Station-Camden Station shuttle trains also will not be in service, the MTA announced Friday. Bus service will be provided between the discontinued stops.

Single-car trains will serve commuters south of North Avenue, which could lead to crowding at the beginning of the week. MTA officials have recommended that riders add 45 minutes to travel time during this period.

According to reports from WJZ, the transit agency said that "flat spots" on many of the trains' wheels could lead to broken wheels if left unrepaired.

Flat spots are created when the train's wheels slide on the track, which can be caused by the system's automatic emergency braking system. The sliding problem has been exacerbated by "slippery rail season": When leaves fall on the tracks, they decompose and form a film that can cause the trains' wheels to slip. Snow and rain also add to the problem.

"When you start seeing wheels cracking and you start seeing wheels start to disintegrate, you have to look and say, 'Listen, these were all made around the same time,' and so after we closely inspected it, we started to see a pattern emerging of problems," MTA spokeswoman Jawauna Greene told WJZ.

The MTA has enacted stricter rules since April, when a train wheel cracked, leading to inspections of 53 light rail cars and delays and disruptions of service. MTA inspectors found a number of flat spots on the cracked wheels. As a result, any wheel with a significant flat spot is now reground. That process takes at least 24 hours.

The MTA says it is seeking short- and long-term solutions to the problem. It is testing a new pressure-washing procedure that could increase friction between the wheels and rails. However, the agency said there is no timetable for repairs or return of service.

Last week, the MTA warned that there would be "major disruptions" in light rail service between Timonium and Hunt Valley. The transit agency predicted then that the problems would last for about a week.

light rail disruptions

Service affected: Penn-Camden Station Shuttle, between Penn Station and Camden Yards, and service between North Avenue and Hunt Valley

Alternative transit: Shuttle buses will be provided at stops between Penn Station and Camden Yards, and between North Avenue and Hunt Valley.

What to expect: Crowding, due to one-car service on running trains, and delays. MTA officials recommend adding 45 minutes to your travel time.

Reason for disruption: Large number of trains under repair because of problems caused by wheels sliding on train rails.

How long this will be in effect: Indefinitely

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