You remember the $600,000 Dallas Area Rapid Transit track boo-boo I talked about in my June 12 column? Maybe not. Anyway, DART had to order its main construction contractor, Archer Western, to tear up almost a mile of brand-new track in East Dallas. I’ve been trying to find out what happened.
DART provided me with a copy of a letter they sent to Archer Western on May 16, 2008. And, uh … wow! It tells a fairly scary tale, seems to me.
Makes me wonder whether to ride. But, at the very least, you can jump.
Archer Western is working on the Green Line from Pleasant Grove to Carrollton. They build it by casting “stirrups” into concrete plinths or platforms. The stirrups are dowels that stabilize the rails.
From the letter, I gather DART found out some time ago that a lot of stirrups had been cast into the concrete the wrong way. They told Archer Western to fix them. The real trouble came when DART went back to check on the fix.
In its letter to Archer Western, DART says it discovered that some of the stirrups had been cut off short to avoid having to cast and re-bar them back into the concrete plinths. And get this: Instead of grouting the stirrups into the plinths with epoxy, DART says Archer Western just smeared epoxy on top of the holes “to provide the appearance of proper grouting.”
I’m trying to remember the movie where they’re doing the final inspection on a huge new hydroelectric dam, and an employee, walking ahead of the inspectors, spots a hairline leak and fixes it with his chewing gum. [Editor's note: Jim, you're not thinking of Vegas Vacation, are you?]
Anyway, worse things happened. In checking on all this, DART tested some plinths to see if they were sound. Umm … eight plinths were too weak to carry a load.
Of 41 repaired stirrups inspected, 41 had been improperly installed. The letter says, “None of the demolished plinths appeared to be properly bonded to the underlying slab.”
The letter says, “In summary, none of the repaired stirrups found in existing plinths were properly repaired.”
How serious is any of this? The letter says, “Failure of ANY of the plinths under the load of trains carrying passengers cannot be tolerated.”
Yikes, double yikes, yikes very much. Tell you what. Trains that fall off the tracks at high speeds cannot be tolerated one iota by this particular passenger. I am totally opposed to any personal involvement whatsoever in a derailment. I don’t care if gasoline costs $100 a gallon.
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I tried and tried to call Archer Western for their version. Their Arlington office referred me to their corporate parent, the Walsh Group in Chicago. At the Walsh Group number I asked for a press or media spokesperson. I was switched to a person who answered the phone, I do believe, as “Kitten.” Could have been Mitten. She said she would not give me her last name. She did not want to see the DART letter or take my name. She said, “We have no comment. We never comment.”
O.K., Kitten Mitten whoever. And, by the way, you are my kind of gal.
The DART letter says nothing -- not one word -- about who pays for all this mess. DART spokesman Morgan Lyons has estimated the cost at $600,000, which means it could be, you know, a billion.
I’m workin’ on it. --Jim Schutze