Tunnel Ventilation Pilot Project

Tunnel Ventilation Pilot Project header imageEn Español

Metro’s Tunnel Ventilation Pilot Project is designed to improve safety on the Red Line in the event of a smoke or fire emergency between Cleveland Park and Woodley Park stations.

As the oldest line in the Metrorail system, the Red Line requires ventilation upgrades to ensure that the tunnel meets current National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) safety standards. The existing ventilation shafts between Woodley Park and Cleveland Park stations were built before the stations opened in 1981 and before the NFPA safety standard for transit systems was established. 

This pilot project is part of a larger program to improve tunnel safety by upgrading the ventilation system and was developed in response to a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) directive to upgrade tunnel ventilation after the 2015 smoke incident at L’Enfant Plaza. 

Once this portion of the project is completed, Metro will analyze the performance and if successful, prioritize other locations throughout the Metrorail system for similar ventilation system upgrades.

Project Improvements

This project will install a new tunnel ventilation system to blow smoke up through existing vent shafts in the event of an emergency. Powerful ventilation fans will be installed on three new platforms over the tracks, which will be located at the base of existing ventilation shafts more than 100 feet below Connecticut Ave. The new platforms will feature dampers that can be opened and closed to channel airflow into a specific tunnel in the event of an emergency. Electrical upgrades at each station will also be installed to support the new ventilation system.

Construction Approach and Timeline

Construction began in July 2021 and is anticipated to last for approximately one year. To lessen the duration of the project, crews are working around-the-clock, seven days a week. 

To minimize impacts created by construction staging, Metro’s contractor established a material laydown area at the Shady Grove Rail Yard. Construction materials are offloaded from trucks to the laydown area and transported to the construction site in the tunnel via flatbed rail cars after Metrorail service hours. Approximately 115 tons of steel, concrete, and fan/power equipment will be moved by rail vehicle over the span of the project.

Continuous single-tracking and weekend station closures may be necessary in 2022 to allow crews to install the necessary infrastructure in the tunnel.