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Jim Lewis
Jim Lewis
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Safety concerns face Washington, D.C. Metro expansion to Dulles in northern Virginia

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Serious safety issues have emerged concerning the Washington, D.C. Metro rail line currently being extended to Washington Dulles International Airport.

Concerns center around underground foundations built for the line 32 years ago – built and then forgotten, The Washington Post reported in a recent special investigation.

Builders and local government officials now want to use the rediscovered foundations – called footings – without testing all of them to make sure they can carry the load of a bridge and trains on the bridge.

"We have genuine, factual concerns about their engineering plan," Peter Rogoff, head of the Federal Transit Administration, told The Post.

Metro has had a mixed safety record in recent years. Nine people died in a June accident that was the worst in Metro history, an accident written about by my colleague Rick Shapiro.

The contractor building the Silver Line, Dulles Transit Partners, has tested two of the 11 foundations and plans to test seven more. That will leave two foundations untested.

The bridge, when built, will take the Silver Line over a tangle of roads: The Dulles Toll Road, Interstate 66, and the Metro’s Orange Line. The 23-mile line is expected to cost $5.2 billion.

The original construction drawings and associated paperwork for the foundations – including “as-built” drawings that show what was actually constructed – have been lost, the newspaper said.

The foundations themselves had been buried and forgotten until 2007, when workers conducting soil bore tests rediscovered them.

Engineers on the project decided to use the old foundations – along with additional new foundations – for the bridge.

Federal officials have strongly encouraged the contractor to test all the foundations. However, the matter still remains unresolved – and construction on the line continues.

About the Editors: Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm (VA-NC law offices ) edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as a pro bono service to consumers.

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