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Crack No. 27: Why cracked rails are a frequent problem on Metro

Monday - 12/17/2012, 12:05pm  ET

WASHINGTON - It's now happened for the 27th time. Metro says a cracked rail outside Friendship Heights is causing single tracking on the Red Line between Medical Center and Van Ness-UDC.

It's expected to take between two and three hours to repair, says Metro spokesman Dan Stessel. The problem should be fixed prior to the afternoon rush.

Trains are running every 12 minutes on the line.

While Metro has dealt with more than 25 cracked rails this year, Metro says they are seeing a decrease of cracked rails by 40 percent compared to last year.

Many trains on the Red Line are subject to water infiltration and that's what leads to cracked rails, Stessel says.

A cracked rail slowed down Metro's Red Line for about five hours on Thursday, in the 26th case this year of a broken rail on the transit system, according to Metro.

This comes after an incident on the Red Line Thursday that slowed down travel for several hours.

The Washington Examiner ( reports that last year, there were 49 cracked rails on the Washington area's subway system. There were 33 in 2010, 19 in 2009 and just seven in 2008.

The cracked rail on Thursday occurred near the Bethesda station. Trains were forced to share a single track for about 5 hours between the morning and evening peaks.

It's not clear what's causing so many cracks. Metro has blamed fluctuating temperatures at times, but Thursday's incident occurred underground, where temperatures are more stable.

Metro officials say they're about to start using a new track-testing machine that uses thermal imaging and can pinpoint trouble spots before cracks form.

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