Metro plans to close the south entrance of its Dupont Circle station starting in February for up to 10 months, less than originally planned, to replace all the escalators as part of an extensive restoration project.
Meanwhile, the transit agency plans to unveil the first major overhaul of its rebuilding program Wednesday, with a ribbon cutting to mark the completion of three escalator replacements at the Foggy Bottom station and the rehabilitation of seven escalators at Union Station.
The projects are part of an effort to overhaul the escalators that plague riders and serve as bottlenecks into stations. But the process of fixing them has made matters worse in the short term, as riders navigate around construction barricades and walk up stopped units. At some points, one of every five escalators has been down systemwide.
Soon riders who pass through Dupont Circle will be feeling even more pain as the entire 19th Street entrance on the south side of the circle will close to replace all three 188-foot-long escalators, according to an agency report.
But the pain may be less than first feared. The transit agency originally said the entrance would be closed for a year, but it has shaved that down to 10 months.
"Now we're looking to shave even more time," said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel. "The goal is to get the work done as quickly and as safely as possible."
The agency is trying to negotiate the closure down to 8 1/2 months, according to the report to be presented to the board of directors Thursday.
The closure will put more pressure on the north entrance and also the adjacent stops. Dupont is the fifth-busiest in the rail system.
Metro officials promise that a portion of the construction at nearby Farragut North will be finished before the Dupont project begins, and the rest won't start until the Dupont entrance reopens.
The agency is trying to calm riders who remember a near-stampede in July 2010 when a fire blocked one Dupont entrance and riders swarmed to the other entrance to find a partially barricaded escalator.
Metro plans to add more staff at the station to manage crowds and make sure the remaining escalators and elevators are working.
The agency plans to build an emergency staircase into an existing ventilation shaft and keep one escalator as an emergency "walker" so riders can walk up or down.
It also plans to have a backup generator to power the stations' elevators and escalators if a power outage occurs, plus it will use extra trains in pocket tracks near Farragut North to help evacuate riders from the station by rail.