Metro News Release

For immediate release: January 26, 2009

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Metro ready for winter weather
De-icing trains, snow-fighting equipment and personnel ready for inclement weather

As the region prepares for winter weather Tuesday and Wednesday (Jan. 27 and 28), Metro is prepared and ready to go. The transit agency will have up 20 trains equipped with de-icing equipment, 2,200 tons of bulk rock salt to treat Metro roadways and parking lots, 18,000, 50-pound bags of de-icer for treating sidewalks and platforms and hundreds of snow-trained employees ready for whatever Mother Nature brings this week.

“You can count on Metro to get you where you need to go as safely as possible,” said Gerald Francis, Metro’s Deputy General Manager and Chief Operating Officer. “Our number one concern is the safety of our riders when using Metro. While our employees are trained experts in dealing with hazardous conditions caused by snow, sleet, freezing rain and ice, we encourage our customers to do their part by exercising care and caution while using our services, and always checking our Web site for service updates.”

This is how Metro is preparing.


Metro will have up to 20 trains equipped with de-icing equipment to combat snow and ice on the electrified third rail, which must be clear to allow electricity to flow to move the trains. Up to 12 trains will be available to operate in regular passenger service on all rail lines with the remaining eight trains in rail yards. If necessary, these trains will be placed in service at the start of morning rush hour and will be available to operate throughout the day, if conditions warrant. 

“The de-icing equipment is neither dangerous nor flammable, and passengers should not be concerned that it is aboard their train. If they prefer not to be in a rail car with the equipment, they can move to another rail car,” Francis said. Those same trains also will have special ice scrapers to help keep ice off of the third rail. If ice builds up on the third rail, it does not allow for the free flow of electricity from the rail to power the train. Keeping the third rail ice-free is a continuous process.

Metro will use “heater tape,” which has been installed on sections of track with significant grades/inclines and in critical areas in the rail yards. The heater tape, which is in use throughout the winter, is a cable clipped onto the third rail that is turned on when temperatures dip below the freezing mark. It keeps the third rail warm enough to prevent ice from forming.

Metro railcar maintenance staff has also “hardened” its fleet of rail cars by protecting the undercarriage motors from snow ingestion and electrical short circuits that are caused by water/snow and debris. The traction motors have been coated with a protective material to help prevent the ingestion of snow and water.

Under normal conditions, Metrobus service works in tandem with Metrorail service. Many Metrobus routes take customers to Metrorail stations. However, bus service depends on road conditions, so passengers should expect possible detours and delays due to changing road conditions.


MetroAccess will operate as road conditions dictate, so passengers should expect possible detours and delays due to changing road conditions. Passengers with scheduled rides should call (301) 562-5360 for a status update of their ride.

Metro Snow Facts

Metro has 2,200 tons of bulk rock salt to treat Metro roadways and parking lots. The salt is stored in seven salt domes and one storage building around the system. Each dome holds approximately 300 tons of rock salt.

Metro has 18,000, 50-pound bags of de-icer (calcium chloride) for treating sidewalks and platforms.

Metro has 71 tractors, 70 pick up trucks, 18 larger trucks, five dump trucks with plows, 96 snow brooms, and 122 snow blowers to remove snow from Metro-owned facilities. 

Metro has two contractors on call to support efforts if snow accumulation reaches four inches or more. They are primarily used to clear parking lots.

Metro has several hundred personnel to aid in support of the snow removal effort.

Updates on Winter Weather Conditions

There are a variety of ways for customers to stay informed during a major storm. Metro constantly updates local news media of Metro service changes. Information is also available at or by calling Metro at 202-637-7000. Customers can also subscribe to e-Alerts and receive up-to-date service disruption information on Metrorail and MetroAccess.


News release issued at 11:22 am, January 26, 2009.

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