Metrorail closes 39 above-ground stations due to storm
Metrobus, MetroAccess service halted due to road conditions
Metrorail officials began the process of closing above-ground stations at about 12:15 p.m. today (Saturday, December 19), in preparation for closing those 39 stations by 1 p.m. due to rapidly deteriorating weather conditions that hindered train movement. Metrobus and paratransit service also were stopped at 1 p.m. today due to unsafe road conditions.
The unusual actions were taken for safety reasons. The decision to limit train service was made due to heavy snowfall that began to cover 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, who have been closely monitoring weather conditions throughout the storm, made the decision to close above-ground stations to avoid the possibility of stranding customers aboard trains in the cold weather. Metrobus and MetroAccess service was stopped at 1 p.m. because roadways were impassable.
Bus and paratransit service is not expected to resume today and trains are expected to continue underground service through closing, at 3 a.m. Officials will reevaluate transit conditions late tonight and again on Sunday morning.
Local officials in the Washington Metropolitan area urged residents to stay home last night and again today.
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 are closed. Modified underground service is operating 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
“These are unusual circumstances with all forecasts calling for record-levels of snowfall continuing throughout the remainder of the evening and into the early-morning hours on Sunday,” said Metro General Manager John Catoe. “They are calling for more than a foot of snow, and we cannot and will not operate trains, buses or paratransit service in an unsafe environment. Our first responsibility is for the safety of our customers and employees,” he said.
As of 4 p.m., 67,520 trips had been taken in the Metrorail system.
A few hundred people did not realize that the rail system was limiting its service to underground stations as of 1 p.m., so Metro officials ran one additional afternoon train to New Carrollton, Largo, Branch Avenue, Huntington, Greenbelt and Vienna Metrorail stations after 1:30 p.m. Unfortunately an Orange Line train to Vienna with 10 people on board got stuck in the snow between the Dunn Loring and Vienna Metrorail stations. A heavy piece of diesel equipment, called a prime mover, was brought in to pull the train back to Dunn Loring Metrorail station, where Metro supervisors and Metro Transit Police personally took the 10 people to their final destinations. The delay was about 1 ½ hours long for those individuals.
Metro is storing many trains underground at strategic locations throughout the rail system instead of letting them sit in the rail yards exposed to the snowfall. This underground staging of trains is being done in anticipation of being able to put them into service sometime on Sunday, December 20.
Several Metrorail deicer trains will continue to move back and forth on the exposed outdoor tracks to attempt to keep snow from building up. These trains are equipped with de-icing equipment, but are not carrying customers in case the power supply is blocked from reaching the train due to the snow. The deicer trains will be replaced by heavy-duty diesel-powered trains late this afternoon to keep the tracks as clear as possible. This equipment will aid in the eventual 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.
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.
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 4:47 pm, December 19, 2009.