The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority says it can't meet a federal deadline to install barriers between rail cars that could help protect visually impaired riders.
News outlets report Metro told the Federal Transit Administration Friday that material shortages are preventing chain installation sooner than November 2019. The Administration issued the call for the chains after at least two people with visual impairments were reported to have fallen on the tracks between 7000-series rail cars. A hard rubber flap covers gaps between those cars, whereas older models had chain barriers.
The Administration said last week Metro will have to remove hundreds of new cars from service if it can't meet the Dec. 31 deadline. Any 7000-series cars without barriers would need to be removed by Jan. 1, 2019. Metro warns this would reduce services by 26 percent.
The Federal Transit Administration ordered Metro to make changes immediately after it says a blind rider was injured while trying to get on a train.
Federal authorities said in a letter sent June 22 to Metro General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld that the 7000-series cars are not safe for visually impaired riders.
The letter cited an incident in May when a visually impaired customer was hurt while searching for an open door on a railcar at the Van Ness-UDC station. The rider mistook the gap between two railcars as a doorway, stepped off the platform and fell onto the tracks. She had minor injuries, the letter said.
The FTA says the rubber barriers on the 7000-series railcars are harder for people who are blind to detect than the chain barriers used on Metro's other railcars.