Metro will resume rail service at 5 AM on Thursday, but possibly with some noticeable limitations following a systemwide shutdown Wednesday for emergency inspections and repairs to its electrical system.
Paul Wiedefeld, the transit agency’s general manager, said crews inspecting about 100 miles of tunnels have found 26 areas where power cables attached to the third rail were damaged and needed to be replaced immediately. So far, 18 of the repairs are complete, although Wiedefeld said there may be more problem spots discovered as the inspection is completed.
Wiedefeld announced the unprecedented full-system closure Tuesday, a day after an electrical fire near the McPherson Square station caused widespread delays and service outages. The equipment involved in the blaze was similar to that responsible for the January 2015 smoke incident near the L’Enfant Plaza station that killed a passenger aboard a stalled Yellow Line train.
Metro officials said riders should expect the system to open on time tomorrow, though Wiedefeld said some repairs may still be ongoing during the morning commute. If the fixes aren’t completed in time, trains will run on a single track in both directions around the problem spots, or passengers will be directed to “bus bridges” between the affected stations.
During the press conference, Wiedefeld showed a map of the damage discovered so far, calling out areas near the McPherson Square, Farragut North, and Potomac Avenue stations as potential “showstoppers.” If the fire that broke out at McPherson early Monday had happened a few hours later, Wiedefeld said, it could have been as bad as the L’Enfant Plaza incident.
“We are sorry it had to come to this,” Metro Chairman Jack Evans, who is also a DC Council member, said. “We still believe today we made the correct decision because of safety. None of us could in good conscience send those trains out knowing the risks we had.”
Evans also used his moment at the podium to call for a dedicated funding source for Metro, instead of the seemingly arbitrary hodgepodge of jurisdictional and federal investments that fund it. The plea was a reminder that the Metro shutdown is symptomatic of a larger trend of lagging investment in critical infrastructure, something the Washington Post‘s Philip Kennicott stressed in an essay Wednesday.
“I hope this is a wakeup call for the District, for V, for Maryland, and for the fed that we need to invest in Metro,” Evans said.