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‘Irregularities’ or cracks?: Why Sound Transit is repairing light rail tracks

(Sound Transit)

Sound Transit calls it “irregularities in the rails.” Others might say they’re cracks in the tracks that people have been traveling over the past couple weeks.

The transit agency discovered cracks in the 9-year-old rails on Sept. 20, The Seattle Times reports. The cracks occur on a northbound stretch between the Rainier and Tukwila stations, over a portion of I-5. As a result, trains have been ordered to slow down to below 10 mph as they enter South Seattle.

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Sound Transit Spokesperson Kimberly Reason told the Times that the tracks are safe. The Times notes that Sound Transit did not notify riders for two weeks about the issue, even though the trains were slowing down to below 10 mph. When it did announce Tuesday that a disruption was expected for repairs this weekend, it referred to the cracks as “irregularities.”

During a routine inspection, Sound Transit maintenance crews discovered irregularities in the rails just south of Rainier Beach Station, where light rail trains cross Interstate 5 near Boeing Access Road. Crews will be staging equipment and other preparatory work in the area prior to the start of repairs.

Crews are looking into how and why the cracks developed in the first place. They are reportedly appearing on rail heads along the tracks.

Sound Transit will run the trains on a single track between Rainier Beach and Tukwila stations starting at 9 p.m. Friday. Starting at 5 a.m., all directions will be shut down entirely through Sunday morning when single track service will resume. Full service will begin Monday at 5 a.m.

Riders are advised to use King County Metro bus route 97 to get around the gap.

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