Metro, Fairfax County still at odds over Huntington escalator

Huntington escalator

The newly renovated escalator at the North Kings Highway entrance to the Huntington Metro station sits idle on Tuesday.

Metro and Fairfax County are still in talks about how to get a newlyrenovated escalator at the Huntington Metro station into service.

The nearly $1 million restoration of theoutdoor escalator, which leads from the North Kings Highway street-level entrance to the station, has been complete since early December. However, Fairfax County inspectors have not approved the escalator for service yet because, according to state code, it must be covered by a canopy.

A Metro spokesman says they were always aware of the canopy requirement and were planning on building it once the escalator renovation was complete. But Metro believes the escalator should be allowed to go into service in the meantime without the canopy, something it says has been done at other stations.

“In other jurisdictions, Metro has received approval to place new escalators in service prior to the completion of the canopy, which always follows the completion of the escalator,” said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel. “For example, at Metro Center, the new escalators at 12th and G Streets NW have been in service for more than a year; a canopy is currently under construction. Same at Shady Grove.”

A spokesman for Fairfax County said officials were “working with Metro to see if there is a way to safely operate the escalator temporarily until a canopy is built,” but emphasized that safety concerns come first.

“Following state building code requirements, Metro’s building plans for the Huntington Station included a canopy over its outdoor escalator — but they have not followed through with these plans that the county approved with the required covering,” said Tony Castrilli, Fairfax County’s Director of Public Affairs. “[O]ur discussions are continuing. State code requires this covering first and foremost for safety, so that riders do not slip and fall in icy conditions. Building codes are created and enforced to protect people and buildings.”

A drawing of the canopy

A drawing of the canopy (click to enlarge).

Stessel said work on the canopy could not start until construction of the escalator — which requirestrusses, cranes and pulleys to move components into place— was complete. He also noted that the previous escalator operated for years without a canopy, and reiterated that the new escalator was built to withstand the elements.

“The new escalator is able to perform safely and reliably under current conditions,” Stessel said.

The requirement for canopies on outdoor escalators goes back at least 10 years, Castrilli said. All of the Phase I stations of the Silver Line, the most recent Metro stations built in Virginia, have covered escalators,according to Castrilli.

The canopy will cost $2.5 million to complete, according to Stessel.

The waiting continues

For station users, the lack of a working escalator at the North Kings Highway entrance is nothing new. Work on the escalator beganin June, butit was out of service well before that, according to riders who use the station.

The escalator project’s estimated completion date has changed multiple times on the WMATA website. Dates previously posted on the site include June 14, June 30, Sept. 16, Nov. 4, Nov. 11, Dec. 16, and Dec. 23.

The WMATA website now says the project will be complete on June 1, but Stessel said that is just a placeholder and is subject to change depending on Metro’s negotiations with Fairfax County.

The escalator is the only one at the street level on the North Kings Highway side, which is a drop-off point for transit buses and shuttles from local residential complexes. Anyone wishing to access or exit the station on that side needs to either take the steps, use the elevator, or enter through the parking garage.

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