Troubled escalator at Huntington Metro getting overhauled during shutdown

A picture of the canopy at the end of July. (Photo courtesy of Mark J. Colombo)
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The three escalators connecting the platform to the mezzanine on the North Kings Highway side of the Huntington Metro station — including the only full-width escalator of the trio — are getting an overhaul as part of this summer’s shutdown, a WMATA spokeswoman confirmed last week.

“The three escalators on the south side of Huntington Station are being rehabilitated while the station is closed for the summer,” WMATA spokeswoman Sherri Ly said last week. “The work is expected to be finished and the escalators back in service by September 9 when the station reopens.”

The Huntington Metro station is currently closed, along with five other Blue Line and Yellow Line stations south of Reagan National Airport, for this summer’s “Platform Improvement Project.” In addition to rebuilding the outdoor platforms at these six stations, WMATA is using the closures to make other needed repairs at the stations, as well as a host of improvements — including installation of slip-resistant tiles, LED lighting, larger display signs and new shelters on the platforms.

All of those improvements are taking place at Huntington, as well as prep work for a future project to build a new entrance from the middle parking garage to the platform. The escalator rehab, however, had not been previously reported — although it may be the most welcome piece of the summer shutdown work for riders.

“I’m so glad Metro is taking advantage of the closure to overhaul the escalators,” said Mark J. Colombo, a regular rider at Huntington. “It seemed like the repair crew was there working on one of them at least once per week, and with two of them being small, it was often inconvenient. I’m hopeful that they will be much more reliable going forward.”

The center escalator connecting the platform to the mezzanine had a particular trouble spot at Huntington for a number of years. It had been taken out of service for repairs on a number of occasions, including for much of the month of October 2017.

Because of the unique configuration of the station, the center escalator was the only full-width escalator on the south side. That meant that if it was closed, users were force to exit the platform on a single-width escalator, which often caused long backups on the platforms since walkers did not have the ability to pass riders who were unable to walk up the escalator. Conversely, riders trying to run down the single-width escalator could miss a train because of the inability to pass a rider.

Rehab projects for WMATA escalators are major undertakings, and typically include “the removal, replacement or refurbishment of existing escalator components; the cleaning of the truss; new controller and control wiring; installation of code upgrades and other major item replacements,” according to a document on WMATA’s website. New steps, floor plates, drive chains, motors, brakes, handrails, handrail drives, various wiring replacements, switch replacements and a complete cleaning and re-painting are part of the rehab process, according to the document.

Once completed, the rehabilitation of the three escalators on the North Kings Highway side of the station means that all of the station’s six escalators will have been rehabbed in the past four years. Work on two escalators leading to the platform on the south side (Huntington Avenue side) of the station was completed just prior to the station’s shutdown in May. Another escalator on the south side of the station leading to the bus bays to the mezzanine was rehabbed in 2017.

The rehab of that escalator-related led to a 2016 dispute between WMATA and Fairfax County over the construction of a canopy over the escalator, which is located outside of the station. The escalator sat idle for weeks as both sides worked out an agreement that allowed the escalator to operate, except during inclement weather. Preliminary work on the canopy project began in late 2017.

Picture of canopy with covers off glass
The new canopy covering an escalator and stairs from the bus bays on the North Kings Highway side of the Huntington Metro station. (Photo courtesy of Mark J. Colombo)

In the past couple weeks, some of the plywood and framing around the canopy has been removed, giving a fuller look of what the completed project will look like. Throughout the rest of the station, other changes, including the removal of tiles from the platform and the beginnings of prep work for a future entrance from the middle garage to the platform are also visible.