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Metro finishes $176M escalator replacement project after eight years

Outdoor canopies are still planned for some station entrances

A set of three escalators in a subway seen from their base.
Escalators at the Smithsonian station

Since 2011, contractors hired by Metro have been repairing station escalators throughout the rail system under a $176 million capital project. Now, that project has wrapped up, delivering 145 new escalators to Metrorail, the transit agency announced Thursday. The final escalator was installed at Arlington’s Court House stop, which is served by the Orange and Silver lines.

Following the installations, the average age of Metrorail’s escalators is 9.9 years, versus 27 years before the project began, said Metro. To date, eight canopies have been installed for outdoor escalators, and six more are slated at the Smithsonian, Judiciary Square, Archives, Arlington Cemetery, and U Street stations. The canopies help shield the escalators from the elements, preventing accelerated wear and tear. Metro adds that another 153 escalators have been refurbished with new motors, steps, handrails, safety features, and electrical supports.

“Metro’s first new replacement escalators were installed at Foggy Bottom in 2011, when the system’s overall escalator availability was 89 percent, a figure dragged down by dozens of problematic units that spent more time out of service than in service,” the transit agency explains in a release. “On a typical day today, 94 percent of Metro’s escalators are in service at any given time, an availability statistic that includes units that are unavailable due to routine scheduled maintenance and inspection.” Finnish firm Kone was the main contractor.

Metrorail has more than 600 individual escalators, comprising what Metro calls “the largest fleet of escalators in North America.” The repair work is set to continue: The transit agency plans for the another 127 escalators to be replaced and has released a request for proposals.