Metrorail limited to underground; no Metrobus, MetroAccess service Wednesday
Snow storm likely to limit transit service significantly
Metrorail service is expected to be limited to underground stations only on Wednesday, February 10, and there will be no Metrobus or MetroAccess service due to the heavy snowfall expected tonight (Feb. 9) and tomorrow (Feb. 10).
The Metrorail system will open on Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 5 a.m. with service limited to underground stations only. Metrobuses and MetroAccess vehicles will remain parked because of hazardous road conditions.
Metro staff will monitor conditions throughout the day and change service levels if appropriate. If the weather predictions hold true, Metro will continue efforts to clear the above-ground tracks, in an attempt to resume above-ground rail service on Thursday. Snow is forecast to be seven to 14 inches with heavy winds expected to cause heavy snowdrifts on the tracks and the region’s roadways.
The Metrorail system can operate well in snowfall of less than eight inches, however once the snow accumulation tops eight inches, it covers the electrified third rail, which is critical to providing power to move the trains. Additionally, heavy snowfall often damages electronic components located in the undercarriage of rail cars.
The Metrorail system consists of 86 stations and 106 miles of track. Forty stations along 55.5 miles of track are above ground and 46 stations along 50.5 miles of track are underground. All 40 above-ground stations will be closed. On Wednesday, trains will be servicing underground stations at intervals of 24 to 30 minutes from opening until midnight as follows:
• The Red Line will be split into two segments. It will operate between Union Station and Medical Center Metrorail stations and between Glenmont and Forest Glen Metrorail stations.
• The Blue and Orange Lines will both operate between Ballston and Stadium-Armory Metrorail stations.
• The Green Line will run between Fort Totten and Congress Heights Metrorail stations.
• The Yellow Line will run only between the Pentagon and Crystal City Metrorail stations.
Metro is looking to store much of its rail fleet underground tonight to help protect the rail cars from the damage caused by ice and snow.
The biggest challenges facing Metrorail at the above-ground stations will be heavy snowfall, snow drifts that will cover tracks after they are cleared, and ice along the electrified third rail. That ice will prevent the transfer of electricity from the tracks to the train.
Metro officials are optimistic that some above-ground service will be restored on Thursday and that some bus and paratransit service will resume as road conditions allow.
There is a multi-stepped approach to clearing tracks of ice and snow. A heavy-duty diesel powered train called a prime mover clears the majority of snow and ice from the tracks. Then those trains move to the rail yards, where more miles of track are used to store hundreds of rail cars. Once the prime movers are off of the rails, trains equipped with de-icing equipment are run on the tracks to keep them clear of snow and ice build-up. These trains are used to apply a de-icing agent and are referred to as rail “polishers” because they go back and forth keeping the third rail ice-free. The next step to prepare tracks for service is to clear the snow and ice from interlocking or switches, which allows trains to switch tracks, reverse direction or turn around. If an interlocking is not clear of snow or ice, there is no way to maneuver around a train that becomes disabled.
As stretches of track are cleared of snow and ice, the tracks are deemed safe for moving passenger trains.
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 also can subscribe to receive Metro’s news releases and e-Alerts to receive up-to-date service disruption information on Metrorail and MetroAccess.
News release issued at 6:28 pm, February 9, 2010.