Metro General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference that 600 third-rail power cables must undergo a safety inspection.
“While the investigation is ongoing, 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,” Wiedefeld said about the 2015 fire in a Metro tunnel that killed one woman and injured dozens.
Metro says the inspections of approximately 600 “jumper cables” will occur along all tunnel segments on the Metro system. The GM could not rule out additional closures if issues are found on the cables.
“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.
Metrobus and MetroAccess service will continue to operate on a regular schedule. Alternate service options throughout the region will be extremely limited, and severe crowding is expected on buses. The public is advised to make alternate travel arrangements as early as possible.
The federal government will be open on Wednesday, with the option for unscheduled leave or telework.
The Silver Line Express Bus won’t operate to or from Wiehle-Reston East to Dulles International Airport Wednesday. Service will resume at 6 a.m. Thursday, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said.
Photo: Packed Metro platform in DC March 14/Credit: Johab Silva via Twitter