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Tuesday, June 7, 2016 10:07 a.m.

Metro officials discuss SafeTrack plans

Metro General Manager, Paul Wiedefeld, right, and Metro Board of Directors Chair Jack Evans, left, held a press conference to address Metro's year-long repair plan Monday. Dan Rich | Photo Editor

Metro General Manager, Paul Wiedefeld, right, and Metro Board of Directors Chair Jack Evans, left, held a press conference to address Metro’s year-long repair plan Monday. Dan Rich | Photo Editor

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Catherine Moran

Two top Metro officials stressed the importance of Metro’s year-long repair plan and encouraged commuters to continue using alternative forms of transportation at a press conference at the Foggy Bottom Metro Station Tuesday.

Jack Evans, the chair of Metro’s board of directors, and Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said the repair plan, called SafeTrack, is vital for Metro to continue. For the next year, all of the Metro lines will have planned outages and single tracking to address safety recommendations.

“It is an essential component of fixing up the system,” Evans said. “Our system is broken.”

Metro Spokesman Dan Stessel said at times during the 15 planned surges, the Foggy Bottom Metro Station will experience no Blue line service and that the Orange and Silver lines will operate less frequently.

SafeTrack began three days ago with single tracking from the Ballston to East Falls Church stations. Wiedefeld said that maintenance includes rebuilding the catwalks, cleaning out the drainage, and looking at the power cables.

Wiedefeld said that the 26 percent fewer morning riders today at stations west of Ballston Station compared to May 16 helped keep the Metro running as smoothly as possible.

“Whatever you did today, do it tomorrow,” Evans said about the ridership.

Wiedefeld attributed the lower ridership numbers to people commuting earlier in the morning on the Metro or finding alternative routes. Bus ridership was higher and traffic patterns changed Monday, he said.

Both Evans and Wiedefeld acknowledged the “level of inconvenience” to Metro riders, but said the planned single tracking and outages are necessary to cut three years worth of work on the Metro down to one.

“There is no way around it,” Evans said.

Riders may not see the results after the year, but that if all goes well, the Metro will be “safer and more reliable,” Evans said.

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Metro

Metro officials announced they would not shut down lines for months to make repairs. Hatchet File Photo.

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Liz Provencher.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority will not close an entire line for repairs, the top Metro official said Tuesday.

Metro General Paul Wiedefeld said the repairs needed to improve the Metro can be done by temporarily shutting down sections of the tracks, The Washington Post reported. The repairs can also be made during the overnight hours when the Metro is closed.

Last week Jack Evans, the chair of WMATA’s Board of Directors, said that the board considered closing an entire line for as long as six months to deal with repairs. Evans, who is also a D.C. Council member representing Foggy Bottom, specifically mentioned closing the blue line for an extended period twice during a meeting with The Washington Post.

Wiedefeld is now retracting that claim, saying that the repairs can be done in a shorter time frame than six months and can be done most efficiently by closing lines in sections, rather than closing an entire line for a longer amount of time.

“I don’t see any need for a long closure of any part of the system,” Wiedefeld said.

A Metro official, who spoke under the condition of anonymity to the Washington Post, said officials have considered three possible repair plans. One plan has sections of a line shut down for a couple weeks at a time. Another would have a line shut down for several weeks but on weekends only. The third plan requires more trains single-tracking in the early morning and late at night.

An official plan for repairing the Metro system will be announced in the next few weeks, Wiedefeld said.

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Metro

Metro could shut down an entire line for six months to complete repairs. Hatchet File Photo.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority could shut down an entire line for maintenance for six months, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Jack Evans, the chair of WMATA’s board of directors, said shutting down the system for nights and weekends is not enough to complete the needed repairs. He said that at most, WMATA would shut down segments of the rail for extended periods of time for the repairs, The Post reported.

Evans, who is the Foggy Bottom Council member, did not say which line WMATA was will be definitively shut down for the period. He mentioned the blue line, where the Foggy Bottom Metro station is located, as a candidate twice.

“People will go crazy. But there are going to be hard decisions that have to be made in order to get this fixed,” Evans told The Washington Post. “The system right now, in order to do the maintenance that needs to be done, cannot be done on three hours a night and on weekends. It just can’t.”

The Metro closed for almost 30 hours on March 16 to check the cables after a fire in the system that week, costing WMATA $2 million.

Evans said that Metro’s General Manager Paul Wiedefeld will make the final call on which line will be shut down.

At the same meeting, Wiedefeld said “I’m keeping all my options open” about fixing the Metro, The Post reported.

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Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans, pictured at a  Foggy Bottom Association meeting last year, now works at a law firm along two D.C. lobbyists . Max Sall | Hatchet Photographer

Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans, pictured at a Foggy Bottom Association meeting last year, now works at a law firm along two D.C. lobbyists . Max Sall | Hatchet Photographer

The Foggy Bottom Council member’s new job could turn out to be a conflict of interest for his legislative job.

Jack Evans, the D.C. Council member for Ward 2, accepted a job at the law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips in October, where at least two D.C. lobbyists also work, Washington City Paper reported Tuesday.

The lobbyists at the new firm, John Ray and Tina Ang, work on issues like the Pepco and Exelon merger and with major D.C. figures including D.C. gasoline mogul Joe Mamo and other developers, according to documents reviewed by Washington City Paper. Ray is a partner at the firm and a former at-large Council member, the paper reported.

Tom Lipinsky, a spokesman for Evans, said in a statement to Washington City Paper that Evans plans to avoid conflict of interests in his new job. Councilmembers are allowed to hold positions outside of their city jobs.

Evans had previously worked at another firm, Patton Boggs, until January of last year in addition to his $133,000 per year job on the Council. He makes an additional $60,000 annually from Manatt, the paper reported.

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Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh introduced a ban on gasoline-powered leaf blowers in D.C. at a D.C. Council meeting Tuesday, DCist reported.

Cheh, who is also a professor at GW Law School, said she had heard noise complaints from residents in her ward about the leaf blowers. Those neighbors recently formed a group called the Concerned Wesley Heights Neighbors, who complained about the leaf blowers publicly at a November Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting in their area.

The neighbors argued at the meeting that the equipment powered by gasoline is louder and pollutes more than other types of leaf blowers. Cheh told DCist that banning a piece of machinery that also may be harmful to the environment is an added benefit because she could not regulate the leaf blowers solely on their emissions.

“We couldn’t predicate the ban on the issue of emissions, but I got enthusiastic because those machines are big polluters,” Cheh said.

Cheh’s bill, which was co-sponsored by Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans, who represents Foggy Bottom, would prohibit the use of the lawn machinery after Jan. 1, 2022, giving a six-year window for D.C. residents to switch out their gasoline-powered blowers for electric ones. At that point, D.C. residents could face fines of up to $500 for using the banned blowers.

“If we could make life more peaceful and more environmentally friendly, I think we should do that,” Cheh told DCist. “It’s not a zero-sum game. It’s not this and nothing else.”

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Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans discussed transportation at Tuesday's Foggy Bottom Association meeting. Max Sall | Hatchet Photographer

Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans discussed transportation at Tuesday’s Foggy Bottom Association meeting. Max Sall | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet Reporter Nick Andricola.

Transportation and city officials heard concerns from Foggy Bottom community members at the Foggy Bottom Association meeting on Tuesday night.

Foggy Bottom Council member Jack Evans and Leif Dormsjo, the director of the District Department of Transportation, were in attendance and took questions from neighbors about issues ranging from Metro delays to traffic in Washington Circle.

Peter Sacco, a 2015 alumnus who is also the executive director of the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission, brought up declining ridership on the Metro and asked about the possibility of providing unlimited rides for college students in the city. He added that Ward 2, which includes Foggy Bottom, has more college students than any other ward.

“Yes I support that and I know we’re doing that at American University. GW is on the list, as is Georgetown,” Evans said. “It’s a great proposal and we’re trying to boost ridership.”

Evans, who is on the Metro’s board of directors, called the train system expensive and inconvenient. He also said trains must run on time.

“I would like to lower fares. We have to get metro to be both affordable and try to make it more convenient,” Evans said.

Still, Evans said it is impossible to avoid all delays, because track work must be done on the weekends.

“We’re always going to be running late on weekends until we get caught up on maintenance,” Evans said.

Evans has advocated for years that the Foggy Bottom Metro station, one of the busiest in the city, should have a second entrance.

“I think that’s what people in Foggy Bottom really want – a second entrance to the system,” he said.

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The D.C. Council approved Mayor Muriel Bowser's suggestion for $23 million in additional spending Tuesday.  Jamie Finkelstein | Hatchet Photographer

The D.C. Council approved Mayor Muriel Bowser’s suggestion for $23 million in additional spending Tuesday. Hatchet File Photo by Jamie Finkelstein.


This post was written by Hatchet reporter Kendrick Chang.

In its first legislative session in a month, the D.C. Council approved Mayor Muriel Bowser’s request for $23 million to be added to the budget and passed legislation directed at crime prevention, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

When Bowser requested the additional funding last week, several D.C. Council members, including Chairman Phil Mendelson, asked for more details, enough of which were provided Tuesday for the Council to unanimously pass the legislation.

The funds would include funding for body cameras on police officers and expand employment assistance for young people in D.C. according to The Post. Of the additional funding, nearly half will go towards improving D.C.’s crime lab and the police body cameras.

Kenyan McDuffie, a Ward 5 Council member who is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, also proposed a crime prevention bill that would identify at-risk youth in the city and give them access to programming that could prevent them from entering a criminal lifestyle.

“What’s clear is we cannot arrest our way out of this crime problem,” McDuffie said.

Jack Evans, the Ward 2 Council member who represents Foggy Bottom, introduced a bill that would use funds to keep at least 4,000 police officers in the Metropolitan Police Department, which he said currently only has 3,800 officers.

Evans also introduced another bill that would require police officers, public school teachers and firefighters to live in the District, because about 80 percent of those employees live outside the city, Evans told The Post. He said this would be a way to keep D.C. tax money in the city, and said he will likely face backlash from teacher’s associations and other groups for the bill.

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Metro leaders were questioned by members of the House of Representatives about the safety of D.C.’s public transportation system Tuesday.

Two House subcommittees, one on transportation and public assets and another concerning government operations, both scrutinized Metro officials after a fatal incident near the L’Eftant Plaza stop left one woman dead, according to The Washington Post.

Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.) said that an aging Metro system, maintenance problems and no consistent source of funding has led to a “perfect storm of problems,” The Post reported.

And Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) vaguely threatened the transportation leaders with privatizing the system if changes don’t happen soon.

“There are companies that can operate transit systems,” Mica said.

On Monday, transportation officials announced that they added a new fire and rescue liaison position to Metro to watch its control center and to help coordinate response efforts to emergencies in the Metro.

Jack Requa, Metro’s interim general director, spoke before both subcommittees, and told representatives that the search for a permanent general director is in full swing after disagreements from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board of directors slowed the process, according to The Post.

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In the D.C. Council’s last legislative session before the fall on Tuesday, lawmakers proposed several pieces of legislation that targeted crime in the District, The Washington Post reported.

Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans, who represents Foggy Bottom, introduced a bill that would require Metropolitan Police Department officers to tow and impound cars if the officer had probable cause that the owner was involved in prostitution. Calling the bill “Honey, I lost the car,” Evans told NBC Washington the measure was meant to deter people from trying to pick up prostitutes because they would be embarrassed to lose their car for the crime.

Evans said prostitution is becoming a problem in the District and the law would deter people from driving out of state to downtown D.C. to pick up prostitutes. He passed similar legislation in 2005 that gave a local agency permission to tow people suspected of supporting prostitution, but said it hasn’t been effectively enforced.

Anita Bonds, an At-Large council member, proposed legislation that would require universities in D.C. to permanently mark a “scarlet letter” on the academic transcripts of students convicted of sexual assault. She cited a survey from The Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation that found 20 percent of college females in the past four years had an unwanted sexual experience at school.

“I hear these statistics and I am as outraged as many in the community are,” Bonds told The Washington Post.

Bonds also proposed a bill that would make it illegal to financially exploit elderly residents of D.C., saying the older population is “less equipped to recover from the loss.”

Kenyan McDuffie, the Council member from Ward 5 and the chair of the Council’s Judiciary Committee, introduced a bill that would increase fines for multiple offenses of having illegal dirt bikes and ATVs in the city. The bill would keep the current $250 fine for the illegal vehicles on the first offense, but increase punishments for later offenses to up to a $1,000 fine or 180 days in jail for a third offense.

“I have heard from countless residents, and police officers about the illegal use of dirt bikes and ATVs,” McDuffie said in a press release. “Currently our laws just do not serve as a sufficient deterrent to the use of these machines. Dirt bikes and ATVs are not appropriate for use on our roads, are dangerous, and have been used completely irresponsibly on sidewalks and in packs to intimidate pedestrians and drivers.

The bill against dirt bikes were co-sponsored by Council members Charles Allen from Ward 6 and Brianne Nadeau from Ward 1.

The Council also confirmed 20 appointments by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, including Gregory Dean, the new chief of D.C. Fire and EMS, and five other agency heads.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015 4:42 p.m.

D.C. United stadium deal finalized

D.C. just scored a new stadium.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser held a press conference Tuesday to announce that the D.C. United soccer team has finalized plans with with D.C. government to build a stadium in the city, according to her Twitter account. The stadium will be located at Buzzards Point in southwest D.C., according to The Washington Post.

Bowser said in a statement that legislation regarding the stadium will be submitted to the D.C. Council for final review. D.C. United currently plays at RFK Stadium.

“This agreement will add vibrancy to a neighborhood on the banks of the Anacostia River and generate jobs for District residents as my administration creates pathways to the middle class,” she said in the statement.

Council members surrounded Bowser during the press conference, clad in red, white and blue D.C. United scarves, according to a tweet from Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans.

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