Metrorail to halt above-ground service at 1 p.m.--39 stations to close
Metrobus, MetroAccess service also to stop at 1 p.m. Saturday
Metrorail trains will stop serving above-ground stations at 1 p.m. today, Saturday, December 19, due to heavy snowfall that is covering the electrified third rail, which is situated eight inches above the ground. The third rail must be clear of snow and ice because it is the source of electricity that powers the trains. Metro officials believe that by 1 p.m. the exposed third rail will be covered by snow. All Metrobus and MetroAccess service also will stop at 1 p.m. because roadways are quickly becoming impassable.
Metro has 86 stations and 106-miles of track. Forty-seven stations along 50.5 miles of track are located underground and 39 stations along 55.5 miles of track are above ground. All 39 above-ground stations will close at 1 p.m. The modified underground service will operate as follows:
Yellow Line – Service from Pentagon to Crystal City only
Red Line – Service between Medical Center and Union Station only
Orange Line – Service between Ballston and Stadium-Armory only
Green Line – Service between Fort Totten and Congress Heights only
Blue Line – Service between Ballston (extended to Blue Line)
and Stadium-Armory only
“We have been monitoring the snowfall and the forecast closely since last night,” said Metro General Manager John Catoe. “We ran trains throughout the night to keep the tracks clear of snow and ice, but we are fast-reaching the point where we risk trains becoming stranded on snow-covered tracks. To prevent that from happening, we will cease above-ground operations at 1 p.m.”
The announcement was made at 11:45 a.m. to give customers some advance notice.
“These are unusual circumstances with all forecasts calling for record-levels of snowfall. They are calling for more than a foot of snow, and we cannot and will not operate in an unsafe environment,” Catoe said. “Our first responsibility is for the safety of our customers and employees.”
Once trains are shifted to underground travel, some maintenance trains without passengers in them will travel on the exposed tracks to try to keep the snow and ice clear of the tracks. These deicer trains will aid in the return of service because once the snow stops falling, it will be easier to resume above-ground service if snow has been cleared a few times.
The underground Metrorail stations will remain open until 3 a.m., the normal closing time for a Saturday night.
Rail customers are encouraged to use station elevators from the street level into and out of the stations as they are safer than escalators in this type of heavy snowfall.
All Metrobus service will halt at 1 p.m. Metrobus service ceased in Maryland and Virginia at about 11:30 a.m. as vehicles were not able to drive on snow-covered roads.
MetroAccess will not start any new trips after 1 p.m. due to poor road conditions. If someone took a trip prior to 1 p.m., their round trip home will be honored.
Metro’s customer call center also will close at 1 p.m. today.
Metro started the weekend with 2,200 tons of bulk rock salt to treat Metro roadways and parking lots and 18,000, 50-pound bags of de-icer for treating sidewalks and platforms. Hundreds of snow-trained employees and contractors have been working throughout the night and into today to treat snowy and icy surfaces at Metrorail stations including platforms, sidewalks and parking facilities.
Metro also is using “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 is a cable clipped onto the electrified third rail that is turned on when temperatures dip below the freezing mark. It helps keep the third rail warm enough to prevent ice from forming.
How to get 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 on Metro’s home page at www.metroopensdoors.com. Customers can also subscribe to e-Alerts and receive up-to-date service disruption information on Metrorail and MetroAccess.
News release issued at 11:49 am, December 19, 2009.