D.C. Metro announced Thursday a plan to shut down a portion of the blue, orange and silver line tracks for 16 days after the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) told Metro officials Wednesday safety threats in the system require immediate fixes.
The shutdown will happen on the blue and silver lines between the Eastern Market and Benning Road stations and on the orange line between the Eastern Market and Minnesota Avenue stations sometime in June, reports NBC4. The order will push back the start of a more comprehensive one-year plan to overhaul the Metro system.
FTA demanded Metro officials immediately fix the three sections of track in a letter Wednesday. Any other repair plans must be put on hold until they address the concerns of the FTA, the letter said. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said Tuesday he strongly considered shutting down the system after last weeks track explosion and is still leaving it as an option if Metro does not meet the FTA’s timeline.
“I think the sooner we get out there, the sooner we get out of this game,” Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld told NBC4. “When I sat there at the NTSB hearing the other day and just heard through the litany of the decades here, it just reinforced to me I just got to go.”
The National Transportation and Safety Board hearing revealed decades of neglected maintenance and administrative failure. Federal inspections also revealed an alarming safety culture where emergency procedures are ignored. Inspections by FTA officials between April 23 and May 10 revealed nine safety threats involving smoke and fires. (RELATED: Feds Order DC Metro To Take Urgent Action On Three Dangerous Tracks)
“We have the ability to withhold funds from Metro,” Foxx told reporters Tuesday. “We have the ability to shut Metro down, and we’re not afraid to use the authority we have. This is serious business.”
Wiedefeld outlined the full reconstruction of the Metro system last Friday, dubbed “SafeTrack,” which will happen through a combination of single tracking, partial line closures and reduced service hours on every line except the newly constructed portions of the silver line. A final draft is expected May 16, but the FTA’s requirements may delay the plan.
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