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Leaders Laud Pending Bethesda Metro Escalator Replacement

Bethesda Metro Improvement Task Force will advocate to keep the project on track.

Bethesda leaders are coming out in support of Metro general manager Richard Sarles’ announcement that the Bethesda Metro escalators are set to be replaced in 2014, but they’ll continue to advocate for the project to remain on track.

Sarles announced to the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce last week that all three Bethesda Metro entrance escalators as part of its proposed six-year, fiscal year 2013 to 2018 Capital Improvement Program. Escalator break-downs and maintenance projects have long been a source of frustration for Bethesda riders. The Bethesda station opened in 1984, according to a Metro press release, and sees nearly 23,000 riders on an average weekday.

“We can’t keep doing band-aid repairs and hope they will last – it’s time to just replace the entrance escalators at the Bethesda station,” said Sarles, in a statement.

The Bethesda escalator project will be presented as part of the Capital Improvement Program to Metro’s board of directors in the fall, according to the statement. “…While this project needs to be supported by our funding jurisdictions and the Board, I am confident that they share my interest in improving escalator reliability,” the statement read.

The Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber has been spearheading a Bethesda Metro Improvement Task Force, and replacing the escalators is at the “top of the list” when it comes to the group’s priorities, said task force chair Jane Fairweather.

“We are hopeful that’s going to happen, that it will not be something they cut back or eliminate, but it’s highly dependant on [Metro’s] budget,” Fairweather said.

The group is also advocating for painting and cleaning of the station and finding a solution for ongoing water intrusion problems affecting ceiling tiles, and hopes to install art in an effort to make the Metro a more attractive entrance point to downtown Bethesda.

Though her group will continue to push for escalator and other improvements, Fairweather said the announcement was good news for the community. “They hear us,” Fairweather said, referring to Metro. “They know it's essential they get this done, and they are paying attention.”

County Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1), who has also advocated for Bethesda Metro improvements, said he was “very pleased” with Sarles’ announcement.

“At a time when we are increasingly urging our people to use Metro, to use mass transit, at a time when we are literally building our community around mass transit, it’s just essential that we provide a top quality service, and those escalators do not qualify,” Berliner said.

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