DC Metro Exec Says Dangerous Incidents ‘Will’ Keep Occurring

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

A track fire caused stress on the D.C. Metro Saturday as passengers had to be evacuated off a train for the second time in under two weeks, and Metro’s leader says it will continue to happen if the federal government doesn’t hand over more money.

Metro Chairman Jack Evans is currently requesting $300 million from Congress to help balance their budget sheet, and $1 billion annually from local governments to conduct the necessary repairs to keep the system running. Evans, who told Congress in April, “next time something happens, I’m blaming you guys,” said Monday safety threats will persist until the money flows, reports WTOP.

“Metro has serious problems – the infrastructure, the maintenance, the finances,” Evans, a D.C. Council member, told WTOP. “If we do nothing, if we don’t address this, then it will continue to have problems. The system is wearing out. As it wears out, we have more of these incidents.”

Metro officials released a preliminary finding Monday afternoon of the Saturday incident. The investigation is ongoing, but they say a “foreign object,” such as a dislodged chunk of metal from a train, hit the electrified third-rail, igniting a fire.

Passengers reported hearing a loud noise and seeing a flash, followed by the glow of flames in the tunnel. Smoke filled some of the trains as passengers were moved toward rear railcars. The red line train stopped around the Friendship Heights Metro station and passengers were evacuated safely.

Riders, however, blasted Metro officials for poor communication, describing mass confusion in the smoke filled tunnel and people in tears, fearing for their lives.

“It was like chaos, and nobody knows what’s going on,” Sarah Alaoui, a passenger in the train told The Washington Post. “Who knows what’s going to happen to you in a sealed off Metro in the tunnels when you hear an explosion? There was no information.”

The Federal Transit Administration took over control of D.C. Metro oversight late last year and is investigating the incident.

Evans said he wants answers regarding Saturday’s fire and wants to know if safety and communication procedures were followed, in light of the criticism. Evans says deteriorating tracks due to years of negligent maintenance will continue to risk passenger safety until lawmakers approve more funding.

“It wont be fine,” Evans told WTOP. “Until this region finally gets it through their head that this system needs a real, real overhaul, then we’re going to continue to have incidents like this.”

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