Metro found 22 safety "deficiencies" -- more than half of them dating to 2009 -- remaining in its 122 emergency exits, after reviewing inspection reports in the wake of an article in The Washington Examiner detailing such safety problems.
Transit agency officials told board members Thursday about the steps they are taking to address the exits that its own inspectors had warned for years were blocked, dark and even locked.
The data show that inspectors have been finding more problems each year since 2009, increasing from 142 problems that required work orders to 196 in 2011. This year had 61 in the first quarter, putting the agency on pace to have even more than in years past.
|Remaining safety 'deficiencies' in emergency exits|
|Year||Total work orders||Outstanding work orders|
|1st quarter 2012||61||1|
Most have been fixed, Metro said. But as of Wednesday, the agency said, it had 22 work orders outstanding, including 15 ordered in 2009.
Of the remaining problems, 15 were hatch doors at the top of emergency shafts that inspectors had called "overweight," needing more than 35 pounds of force to push open. "All have been surveyed, cleaned and retested," Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said. The agency expects to have them all fixed within the next six weeks.
Metro General Manager Richard Sarles said he was able to push open hatch escape doors when he recently toured the Congress Heights emergency exits after The Examiner's questions. He said it was harder than if it had been properly spring-loaded. But the 67-year-old said, "An old man like me could still push it up."
Six shaft doors also need to be repaired, Stessel said, with new signs, door locks or parts needed.
A lighting repair in the tunnel under the river between the Foggy Bottom and Rosslyn stations is also needed. Stessel said the lights are on with a temporary electrical feed but workers are repairing a permanent line.
However, it's not clear how many other problems Metro corrected before Wednesday. The agency had fixed at least one other safety problem noted in The Examiner article not listed among the 22. It unlocked an exit door at Congress Heights after The Examiner asked about it, reversing a years-long policy of keeping it locked for security reasons although it was the way out for riders in an emergency. Stessel said he did not have information on many other problems may have been fixed since the story.
A key issue The Examiner story noted was that safety issues were not fixed even after they were reported repeatedly during quarterly inspections. An outside safety group had called on Metro in 2010 to set up an automated email notification when problems were not fixed. It said it thought Metro had done so last June.
But Metro officials said Thursday the pilot system took longer than expected. It now plans to start it June 23.