WASHINGTON -- When Metro says it's upgrading its rail system to make it safer, much of that work takes place in places passengers don't normally see -- usually in tunnels and along trackbeds and away from station platforms. But sometimes, safety upgrades slowly take shape in plain sight. You just have to know where to look for it.
If you head over to the eastern end of the U Street station and look at the tracks, you'll notice more of them, clamped together in steel.
In other subway systems, it's not uncommon to see extra rails sitting in the trackbed. Usually, they're older sections of rails that need to be picked up after track rehabilitation work. In fact, one 16-foot-long spare rail accidentally tore a gash into the undercarriage of a New York City subway car in 2004 during rush hour where "about a foot of rail jutted up through the floor beneath a row of seats," The New York Times reported at the time. (The spare rail in question wasn't secured to the trackbed and somehow got caught in the moving train car.)
Metro spokesman Dan Stessel told The Huffington Post that at U Street, the extra rails are switch components, known as "guarded no. 8" turnouts -- components recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board that have been delivered prior to the installation of a new crossover track junction. That work is scheduled for the weekend of Oct. 8-9. "To prevent the parts of the switch apparatus from moving while being transported, the pieces are clamped to a piece of steel," Stessel said.
And you guessed it: To install those new switch components, Metro will shut down Green and Yellow line service between the Mount Vernon Square and Georgia Avenue stations that weekend. Shuttle bus service will be provided.