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“Any updates from WMATA about the status of Dupont AC?”

by Prince Of Petworth June 5, 2017 at 2:30 pm 21 Comments


Photo by PoPville flickr user angela n.

“Dear PoPville,

Have you heard any updates from WMATA about the status of Dupont AC? It’s clearly still not working and it’s now been three years since I thought they said it would be fixed. I’m sure lots of people would love an update about whatever the heck they’re supposed to be doing.”

A couple weeks ago WAMU reported:

“Farragut North and Dupont Circle have been without reliable air conditioning for quite a while, and there’s no date certain for even temporary repairs, WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld told reporters on Monday. As for a permanent solution, that could take years.

“For this summer what we’re looking to do is a temporary fix, which is to put a portable cooling tower,” said Wiedefeld, who would not commit to a date to having it in place. “We’re pushing as hard as we can. I’d love to get it in June. Let’s see what we can get to.”

From WMATA:

“Update May 4, 2017

Farragut North and Dupont Circle stations currently have no cooling capacity due to the failure of 40-year-old water lines that run under Connecticut Avenue NW and connect the stations’ off-site chiller plant (located 40 feet below the median of Connecticut Ave) to a cooling tower located on the roof of a nearby building.

Since 2015, Metro and its contractors have made multiple attempts to repair the pipes, including identifying and patching individual leaks, followed by a complete relining of the pipes from within. Unfortunately, none of the repair strategies applied to date has been successful.

Currently, an independent engineering firm is reviewing the situation to determine the best course of action on a permanent fix, which may involve excavation of Connecticut Avenue NW to allow for complete replacement of the pipes. While that effort is underway, Metro is working cooperatively with the District of Columbia, Golden Triangle BID, and other stakeholders to install temporary cooling equipment while this complicated permanent fix is advanced.

Based on current project timelines, the temporary cooling capacity could be in place as early as June. We should note that, because these cooling lines run under Connecticut Avenue NW, the project may have an impact on motorists. The independent engineering review will identify solutions and strategies that minimize this impact to the extent possible, and we will continue to work with DDOT, Golden Triangle BID, and other stakeholders throughout the project.

Background

Metro’s underground stations are cooled by chilled water air handling units, or “chillers,” not air conditioning. The chiller system is designed to reduce temperatures in stations for rider comfort. The hotter the outside air, the less the chillers will be able to do. By design, if the ambient outdoor temperature is 91 degrees, the chillers will bring the station temperature to 85 degrees.

We have ensured the tunnel and station ventilation fans are active at the two stations to provide passenger comfort; however, even with these efforts, the stations will seem warmer than usual until repairs are completed. We apologize for this inconvenience and thank you for your patience.”

  • Leeran

    At this point it will be a nice surprise if it’s ever working again, especially any point this summer.

  • kallie

    this has been broken for 3 years. THREE. why are they JUST looking into a temporary fix now? they should have been doing this in tandem to permanently fixing the problem. i saw multiple people faint on the farragut north platform last year because of the heat in the height of the summer.

    • TX2DC

      Not excusing them, but perhaps the Safe Track construction and ongoing budgetary issues forced AC repairs off Metro’s priority list?

      • PJL

        …and painting Union Station.

    • west_egg

      It would not have been a good use of Metro’s already-overburdened budget to pursue an expensive temporary remedy while simultaneously working on what they reasonably believed would be a permanent fix. It’s not like they’ve been sitting on their hands for three years.

      • Leeran

        … it’s not? The past few years they’ve basically said “we have no idea how to fix it.”

        • Commentator

          Not sure where you’re getting that.
          .
          “Since 2015, Metro and its contractors have made multiple attempts to repair the pipes, including identifying and patching individual leaks, followed by a complete relining of the pipes from within. Unfortunately, none of the repair strategies applied to date has been successful.”

        • kallie

          Agreed @Leeran – they’ve been using the same excuse for 3 years and it’s not a good look.

  • WashingtonBullets

    It is absolutely sweltering down there in the summer. I dread walking down the escalator steps knowing I could be spending the next 5 minutes completely sweating through my shirt/pants. This is yet another example of the complete ineptitude and incompetence that has plagued Metro for decades. Three YEARS people, WTF?!?! As much as traffic sucks, I’d rather sit in my car than sweat my butt off and arrive to work looking like I just ran a 5k. This is one of the many reasons their rider numbers continue to decline. You suck Metro, you absolutely suck.

  • Tom

    “Excellent sleep tonight,” Mr. Wiedefeld opined to himself as he arose from his bed, the frame of which had been made from dead riders’ bones.

  • Anon

    I think the biggest problem may be that WMATA is confused about how air is cooled. The chillers are a component of the overall air conditioning system [they produce the cold water that is run to the coils in the air handling units by rejecting heat to the cooling tower]. Those tall square posts where the cold air comes out are the air handlers not chillers.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, yes, I’m sure that’s it. A fix has eluded them for three years because they’ve been calling parts of the cooling system by the wrong name and no one has realized it yet. That’s definitely it.

    • west_egg

      Doubtful. They explain the problem as being a leak is the piping between the chillers and the stations. I don’t think anybody is claiming that the pylons are chillers.

    • nope

      I have no idea where you got the idea that WMATA believes what you seem to think they believe.

    • Mickey’s BFF

      I believe that evaporation of water in the cooling towers is key to the process. Obviously, evaporation will not occur in the humid air of DC summers.

  • Mickey’s BFF

    If ever there was an escalator tunnel cave-in waiting to happen, it’s the north tunnel at DuPont.

  • neighbor

    I hope and pray there’s space to stand in front of the fan every time I go down into Dupont.

  • WanderingWahoo

    Have there been any news reports that include a detailed timeline for WMATA’s investigation and attempted repairs? It’s hard to believe that WMATA has been moving forward in a diligent and efficient manner. If the answer is that there is not enough money to get it done quickly, I understand that, but I would prefer to be told that instead of being constantly told the fix is coming soon.

    • Anonymous

      “It’s hard to believe that WMATA has been moving forward in a diligent and efficient manner.”
      .
      You wouldn’t believe it anyway if you were told otherwise, would you?

      • WanderingWahoo

        Actually, if someone provided me a detailed timeline for WMATA’s investigation and attempted repairs, and it showed a diligent and efficient effort, I would believe them. But, based on the amount of time that has passed without an effective repair and WMATA’s history of (ultimately) inaccurate predictions for the when repairs would be effected, I find it hard to believe they have been moving forward in a diligent and efficient manner. I looked at the WAMU and WaPo story, but they don’t get much beyond saying the system has been broken since 2015 and repairs were attempted last year.

    • west_egg

      There is a link in the post above to a WAMU piece on the topic, which lays everything out pretty well. If you google “dupont chiller washingtonpost” you’ll get a WaPo story from 5/17 that’s also pretty good.

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