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Safety problems cancel reopening of Seattle Center Monorail
Seattle Times staff reporter
Today's restart of the one-mile Seattle Center Monorail was canceled, after last-minute tests uncovered some safety problems.
"Instead of taking a chance, Seattle Monorail Services and Seattle Center decided to postpone this relaunch, so we could make sure all the systems were 100 percent go," said Center spokesman David Heurtel. Seattle Monorail Services is the private company that operates the city-owned trains, built in 1962.
It's unclear whether the monorail can reopen in time for this weekend's Bite of Seattle festival at the Center as hoped, said Heurtel.
Last night, workers discovered a glitch in the new emergency-braking system, which automatically prevents the trains from striking each other or ramming barriers at the ends of the line. The pneumatic brakes stopped the train, but operators then had trouble restarting it, said Stuart Rolfe, a partner in the operating company.
In addition, some doors did not open when they were supposed to, he said.
These do not appear to be fundamental problems, said Rolfe.
The monorail has been closed since a sideswipe collision last Thanksgiving weekend, when a driver mistakenly drove into a hazardous area, near the Westlake Center station, where there's only enough space for one of the two trains.
Mechanics and a contractor, Seattle-based Pacifica Marine, have been working overtime to repair the crumpled train bodies. Set designers from the Seattle Opera built new doors, completed last week. Repair costs, paid largely by insurance proceeds, are estimated at $3 million to $4 million.
When Seattle Center made its restart announcement Monday afternoon, the trains had been tested several days and, "we actually thought we were ready to go," Rolfe said. "We didn't fully appreciate until last night that there were problems."
The city, insurers, and operators want the work done early, to serve summer visitors. "There was pressure from everyone to reopen, but it was not unbearable," Rolfe said.
The monorail typically carries 2 million riders a year between Seattle Center and the retail shopping core downtown.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company