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DART Being Investigated For Escalator Malfunction

By Bud Gillett, CBS 11 News
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A malfunctioning escalator that injured a number of people Thursday has brought more scrutiny from the state upon Dallas Area Rapid Transit, or DART.

Besides the incident itself, DART says it didn’t file a required 2010 inspection report until after Thursday’s incident.

“It didn’t get sent last year. We don’t know why, it was completed, we responded, it just wasn’t mailed,” DART’s Morgan Lyons tells CBS 11 News.

“It” is the May 2010 annual inspection of DART escalators.  Hard copies are required to be sent to state regulators to make sure heavy people movers are in compliance.  But the one for the escalator in Thursday’s incident apparently sat on a desk, according to Lyons.  “The reports are done, they were completed, we just didn’t send the paperwork in.”

Escalator maintenance is monitored by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, which oversees areas as diverse as cosmetologists and polygraph examiners.  A spokeswoman in Austin tells CBS 11 News that  because DART’s paperwork was nearly a year late “the agency will open a departmental complaint to review the violation.”  The financial consequences of missing the deadline are not all that severe; a potential penalty of between $500-3,000.

But the state could also force DART to re-inspect every escalator, everywhere in the light rail and bus system.  It’s an issue that isn’t daunting to DART.  “We have a total of six escalators,” says Lyons, “four at CityPlace, two at Mockingbird, and so those were done in a timely fashion.”

Lyons says a state inspector was already on the scene today looking for clues as to what happened Thursday.  The escalator suddenly sped up, dumping riders and sending 18 people to the hospital, the most serious injury a broken leg.

DART shut down the twin escalator as a precaution.  It hopes to have answers, make repairs, and have both machines up and running next week.  Meantime an elevator will continue to serve riders at the Mockingbird stop.

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