Alert: Entire Washington Metro Shut Down All Day Today

T he entire Metrorail system of the District of Columbia is currently shut down for at least 24 hours on Wednesday, March 16, 2016 in an unprecedented move by officials of the transit system in order to conduct emergency inspections of electric cables due to fears for the safety of passengers.

Entire Washington Metro Shut Down All Day Today

Paul J. Wiedefeld — who is the new general manager of the Washington Metro system — “said that it was too risky to delay the safety checks after an electrical fire erupted early Monday and poured smoke into a Metro tunnel downtown”, according to this article written b

The shutdown occurred at midnight just as Wednesday began; and the system is not scheduled to resume operations until 5:00 in the morning on Thursday, March 17, 2016 at the earliest — assuming that no serious problems or issues have been found.

Official News Release

Here is the official news release — issued at 4:35 in the afternoon Eastern Daylight Time on Tuesday, March 15, 2015 — from Metrorail in its entirety pertaining to the closure.

All Metrorail service will be suspended Wednesday, March 16, for emergency inspections

Metro General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld, with support from the Authority’s Board of Directors, today announced the full closure of the Metrorail system on Wednesday, March 16, for emergency inspections of the system’s third-rail power cables following an early morning tunnel fire yesterday.

The inspections of approximately 600 “jumper cables” will occur along all tunnel segments on the Metrorail system. At the conclusion of the inspection process, there may be a need for additional rail service outages. Any further service impacts will be announced to the public as soon as they are known.

“While the risk to the public is very low, I cannot rule out a potential life safety issue here, and that is why we must take this action immediately,” Wiedefeld said. “When I say safety is our highest priority, I mean it. That sometimes means making tough, unpopular decisions, and this is one of those times. I fully recognize the hardship this will cause.”

The Metrorail system will close at its normal time tonight (midnight) and remain closed until 5 a.m. Thursday. All six Metrorail lines and all 91 stations will be closed on Wednesday.

The unprecedented action follows an early morning electrical fire involving a cable in the tunnel outside McPherson Square Station yesterday. There were no injuries; however, service was disrupted along the Blue, Orange and Silver lines throughout the day.

“The investigation into yesterday’s cable fire at McPherson Square is ongoing,” Wiedefeld said.  “As a preliminary matter, the conditions appear disturbingly similar to those in the L’Enfant incident of a year ago, and our focus is squarely on mitigating any risk of a fire elsewhere on the system.”

Metrobus and MetroAccess service will continue to operate on a regular schedule. Limited, supplemental Metrobus service will be provided between Pentagon and Downtown DC (Franklin Square). Parking will be free in all Metro-owned lots and garages for customers who wish to take bus or carpool.

Alternate service options throughout the region will be extremely limited, and severe crowding is expected on buses. Consider the following alternates:

The public is advised to make alternate travel arrangements as early as possible.

Summary

I would have brought this news to you earlier; but the official announcement of shutting down the entire rail system — which, at 40 years of age, is the second busiest subway system in the United States — occurred only seven hours and 25 minutes before it was to take effect, angering passengers in the process and causing hundreds of thousands of commuters to either hastily create new plans to get around the region or simply stay home.

The shutdown does not affect Metrobus service; but expect buses — as well as area highways and roadways, which are usually already clogged during rush hours — to be overburdened with people who normally travel by Metrorail.

More information may be added to this article as the day progresses.

In the meantime, I hope you were not affected by the shutdown of the Washington Metro.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

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