In an unprecedented move, the subway system in Washington, D.C. will be shut down from midnight on Wednesday until 5 a.m. on Thursday. This is the first time in Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) history that the metrorail system has shut down for reasons unrelated to weather.
The metro's "jumper cables" will be inspected for any fire risk. A fire broke out during Monday's commute, and was the second such fire in a matter of years.
Metro General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld, with support from the Authority's Board of Directors, today announced the full closure of the Metrorail system on Wednesday, March 16, for emergency inspections of the system's third-rail power cables following an early morning tunnel fire yesterday.
The inspections of approximately 600 "jumper cables" will occur along all tunnel segments on the Metrorail system. At the conclusion of the inspection process, there may be a need for additional rail service outages. Any further service impacts will be announced to the public as soon as they are known.
"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.
Despite the metrorail's closure, the federal government will remain open.