High temperatures force TriMet to hit the brakes

MAX trains run slower when temperatures top 90 degrees

A MAX Orange Line train on its way to Milwaukie, Sept. 12, 2015 (KOIN)
High temperatures force TriMet to hit the brakes

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — If you’re taking a MAX train Friday or Saturday, get ready to break a sweat. On top of sweltering conditions, you’ll probably have to wait a little longer for your train.

“The high heat means that we travel slower in some sections,” said TriMet spokesperson Mary Fetsch. “It’s really about keeping the trains running for our riders.”

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As temperatures rise, the lines above the MAX trains start to sag, but Trimet uses weights  as a counter balance to keep the line taut. The high temperatures can also cause the metal rails to expand, though, and running trains at high speeds and frequencies can damage the track.

Once temperatures hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit, trains traveling in zones above 35 mile per hour will have to go 10 miles per hour slower than usual. If temperatures hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit, trains aren’t allowed to go any faster than 35 miles per hour.

KOIN 6 wanted to know why Portland’s rail systems weren’t built for the heat when lightrail systems in warmer cities, like Phoenix, can handle these temperatures just fine. We learned you can have a rail that withstands the heat or withstands the cold– but you can’t really have both.

“Every lightrail system is calibrated for their range of temperatures, so everybody has issues,” Fetsch said.

Soon, though, these slowdowns could become a thing of the past. TriMet recently installed a new track piece called tie anchors to Orange and Red lines, and has notice that the anchors can keep expanding rails from moving in high heat.

Those tie anchors won’t help you today, however, so before you head out, pack the sun screen and plenty of water.

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