Stay informed. Sign up for Federal News Radio’s breaking news alerts.
Washington Metro Area Transit Authority General Manager Paul Wiedefeld announced during a press conference March 16 that the D.C. Metrorail will reopen around 5 a.m. on Thursday.
“I know today presented a hardship to the region,” he said. “As of 5 p.m., we found 26 defected areas, and we’ve completed 18 of the zones. Our intention is to finish all of them through the evening.”
He cautioned that some areas may be under single tracking conditions if further need for repairs are discovered.
“We are sorry this had to happen, that it has come to this. We are aware of the inconvenience. But we still believe today that we made the right decision,” said Jack Evans, the chairman of Metro’s governing board and a member of the D.C. Council.
Federal agency offices in the D.C. area will open under a normal schedule on Thursday, according to the Office of Personnel Management. Employees are expected to report to their worksite or begin telework on time.
Many feds took to social media to criticize OPM’s decision to keep the federal government open, albeit with approved telework and unscheduled leave, despite the Metrorail shutdown. Numerous news outlets reported on the traffic conditions, which were “unusual Wednesday morning with heavier traffic earlier in the day but lighter conditions during what would normally be the height of the rush hour,” WTOP reported.
The shutdown was prompted by an incident on March 14 at McPherson Square Metro Station. An investigation into a cable fire shut down the orange, blue and silver lines, and resulted in a 29 hour shutdown to inspect more than 600 cables throughout the Metrorail system.
“We must take action immediately,” Wiedefeld said during a press conference on March 15. “When I say safety is our highest priority, I mean it. I fully recognize the hardship this causes to the region and the community.”
In response to the March 16 shutdown, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) called for an oversight meeting of leaders involved in Metro safety in April, including senators from Virginia and Maryland, WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld, and “other leaders responsible for Metro safety.”
“The metro delegation has worked since 2009 to change the governance of Metro, improve management and provide the federal financial resources needed to improve safety. But every time we turn around, we’re waiting for another turnaround,” Mikulski said in a press release. “I will be convening a meeting with the Maryland and Virginia Senators and Metro General Manager Wiedefeld to make sure Metro has a culture of safety. Today’s action to shut down the Metrorail system was dramatic, drastic and disruptive, but necessary to ensure safety is finally being taken seriously at Metro.”