As the Washington, D.C. Metro begins an unprecedented 29-hour closure for emergency safety inspections the mayor called “shocking,” hundreds of thousands of residents prepare for a day of disastrous commuting.
Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld announced Tuesday afternoon the city’s Metro service would close all day Wednesday to repair the system’s third-rail power cables. Officials will inspect 600 jumper cables across the Metro’s area of operations. Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser said the decision came as a big surprise and officials did not consult with her office before making the decision, reports WUSA9.
“It was shocking, I’ll tell you that,” Bowser told reporters at a Tuesday afternoon press conference. “Do we want to understand their decision making to get to this point, of course, and we will get the answers to those questions.”
Bowser said government agencies will remain open, but there would be changes to daily commuting procedures. Bowser also said public schools would stay open, arguing a Metro outage should not prevent kids in the District from getting their educations. Tardiness and absences will be excused for students who wholly rely on Metro services for transport.
Commuters ride the metro roughly 725,000 times a day, a significantly large number to cut off from the service. The Metro officially shut down Wednesday at midnight and will be closed until 5 a.m. Thursday. Commuters arriving early Wednesday morning at the Vienna station to figure out the bus schedule were not pleased about the surprise closure, reports NBC Washington.
“I mean, there are a lot of people traveling, like myself, working,” commuter Kevin Williams told NBC Washington. “We depend on the Metro. And it just never occurred to me to think about an alternate route to get there, and then I have to think about that, so it’s making it really difficult.”
Wiedefeld stressed the importance of safety Tuesday at the press conference. A rail cable fire at the McPherson Square station severely impacted service Monday, closing down the Farragut West station and forcing trains to single tracks across the city. Similar problems with cables led to a January 2015 fire at the L’Enfant Plaza station that left one passenger dead and several injured after smoke filled a stopped train car in the tunnel.
“If we do it piecemeal, this could take weeks,” Wiedefeld said Tuesday. “While the risk to public is very low, I cannot rule out a potential life safety issue here. This is why we must take this step immediately. When I say safety is our highest priority, I mean it.”
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