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Metro awards $151m contract to upgrade escalators at 34 stations

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Local,Transportation,Kytja Weir,Metro

Metro has awarded an $151.1 million contract to a Finnish company to fix or replace 128 escalators at 40 percent of its stations in the next seven years.

The work calls for replacing up to 88 escalators by 2018 and 40 more by 2020 at a total of 34 of Metro's 86 stations.

"Many of these are the entrance escalators that have lived very hard lives and need to be put out to pasture," Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said.

The transit agency told the Kone Corp. this week that it beat out three other bidders -- Otis, Tompkins/Mid-American Elevator Co. and Schindler -- through a "best value" bidding process that allowed Metro to consider factors other than price, including technical expertise and past performance. Metro declined Thursday to release what each of the other bidders had offered and how they scored on other considerations.

Metro escalators to be replaced or moderized under $151m contract
Archives (3 escalators)*
Arlington Cemetery (4 escalators)*
Bethesda (4 escalators)
Branch Avenue (2 escalators)
Brookland (1 escalator)
Capitol Heights (3 escalators)
Cleveland Park (5 escalators)
College Park (1 escalator)
Columbia Heights (7 escalators)
Congress Heights (7 escalators)
Court House (3 escalators)
Deanwood (2 escalators)
Eastern Market (3 escalators)
Friendship Heights (6 escalators)
Georgia Ave-Petworth (7 escalators)
Glenmont (7 escalators)
Huntington (1 escalator)
Judiciary Square (4 escalators)*
Medical Center (3 escalators)
Metro Center (2 escalators)*
Minnesota Avenue (2 escalators)
Mt Vernon Sq (5 escalators)
Naylor Road (2 escalators)
NoMa-Gallaudet (4 escalators)
Shady Grove (1 escalator)
Shaw-Howard (4 escalators)
Smithsonian (6 escalators)*
Southern Avenue (4 escalators)
Stadium-Armory (2 escalators)
Suitland (4 escalators)
U Street (4 escalators)
Van Ness (6 escalators)
Waterfront (3 escalators)
Woodley Park (6 escalators)
*Escalators may get rehabilitated, rather than replaced, due to new codes requiring canopies for outdoor escalators.

The agency warned that as many as 20 of the escalators at the Smithsonian, Archives, Arlington Cemetery, Judiciary Square and Metro Center stations may not be able to be fully replaced with new equipment due to current escalator codes that require overhead canopies to keep out rain. Metro may need to get permission to add the canopies at those stations from multiple federal groups because the overhangs could mar the views of major landmarks, Stessel said. If Metro cannot install canopies at those stations, he said, it will have Kone rehabilitate the units instead.

"This is about reconstructive surgery, not Band-Aid solutions," Metro General Manager Richard Sarles said. "While we have already seen improvement in escalator availability as a result of better maintenance practices and resources, there are some escalators that are beyond their useful life and need to be replaced or completely overhauled."

Metro has 588 escalators at its rail stations -- and 28 more slated to come online with the first phase of the Silver Line now under construction.

But riders have had to bear frequent outages, with as many as one in five escalators out of service, leaving commuters to hike up and down the stalled staircases. The transit agency has struggled with aging equipment, manufacturers that have gone out of business and shoddy maintenance, according to an independent consultant's 2010 assessment.

Metro recently replaced the units at the Foggy Bottom station exit and the Dupont Circle's southern entrance, the first replacement escalators in more in a decade. It plans to begin swapping out three of the six entrance escalators at the Pentagon station in less than a month.

The agency said the first escalators to be fixed under the new contract would be at the Bethesda station in early 2014. The firm needs to design and prepare for the rest of the work, plus it takes about 40 weeks to manufacture an escalator, according to Metro.

But once the work begins, riders can expect to see more escalators closed. Metro could opt to close an entire entrance for stations that have multiple exits, as it did with Dupont Circle last year. For stations with a single exit, Stessel said, the agency would try to make sure that work was done one escalator at a time.

The new escalators will meet modern safety codes, though, which means they could have more outages once replaced due to the sensitivity of the safety controls, as seen with the new models at Dupont and Foggy Bottom.

kweir@washingtonexaminer.com

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